Saturday, October 10, 2020

"The Last Windwitch" - Jennifer Adam

It's always a special thing to read an author's debut and such is the case with Jennifer Adam's middle-grade fantasy "The Last Windwitch," an April 2021 release from HarperCollins Children's Books."The Last Windwitch" introduces us to the world of Brida, a young hedgewitch apprentice living quite contentedly in the small village of Oak Hollow trying to live into the gift she is constantly told she possesses but which she has great difficulty manifesting with any consistency.

We know rather early on in "The Last Windwitch" that there is more to Brida's life than meets the eye, though my guess is that middle-grade readers will be less quick to become fully aware of Brida's journey and the rather fantastic places that it goes.

Working under the watchful eye of Mother Magdi, Brida is both a disciplined apprentice and a curious child, possessing a curiosity that we all tend to know is going to lead to more than a little bit of trouble. Eventually, she catches the eye of her kingdom's wicked queen who aspires to possess as much power as possible.

If you've seen the cover for "The Last Windwitch," it rather beautifully captures very much how I felt while reading the book. Adam beautifully develops the character of Brida as a young child growing into her skills and the responsibility for which she has been born.

It's not surprising, of course, that she is born with great purpose and that purpose will be revealed by the end of "The Last Windwitch."

Before long, Brida will be on the run from the Queen's Huntsman, an intimidating man who seemingly pops up everywhere and who is tasked with presenting the revealed to be gifted Brida to the queen. Along the way, Brida will meet friends and foes, adoring animals and dastardly beasts. She will encounter the Queen's Crow-spies and will learn the truth about her family, her magic, and the life into which she was born. She may very well learn that even as a little girl she is born with the gifts that will help defeat the wicked queen and restore the kingdom to its rightful place.

"The Last Windwitch" is a delightful tale, a patient journey at 448 pages that takes its time setting the stage for Brida's journey and for enfolding us into the fantasy world in which Brida's journey is set. Adam sets the stage slowly, perhaps a bit too slowly, but in most ways that patience is worth it as we become immersed in the lives of these characters and by tale's end we care about their resolution. While the beginning unfolds a tad slowly, the climactic conflicts seem to unfold rather abruptly and made me wish we had a little more time to really savor Brida's unfolding gifts and how they weave themselves into the conflict and the story's resolution.

However, these are minor quibbles, truly, for a story that engaged me from beginning to end and kept me thoroughly delighted with characters such as Brida, Magdi, Hush, and others whose relevance shall remain secret in this review. Even ancillary characters are developed nicely here, not always true in children's lit and yet essential to the story's success.

"The Last Windwitch" is very much an immersive story. Jennifer Adam is an engaging, visual storyteller and I found myself quite often reading more slowly and surrendering myself to the story unfolding in my heart and in my mind.

Fans of Shannon Hale and Kelly Barnhill will find much to appreciate here and there seems little doubt that HarperCollins has given to us an imaginative, gifted writer whose creatively yet intelligently constructed fantasy world is destined to delight middle-grade readers.

Friday, September 18, 2020

"Lawbreaking Ladies: 50 Remarkable Stories of Criminal Women Throughout History" - Erika Owen

As of late, I've been doing my share of rather heavy reading. So, when I got the chance to check out Erika Owen's "Lawbreaking Ladies: 50 Remarkable Stories of Criminal Women Throughout History" and it's rather light, entertaining cover, I couldn't resist the chance to do some lighter, more entertaining reading for a few days.

To be sure, "Lawbreaking Ladies" is a light read. Despite the potential heaviness of 50 stories about criminal women, Owen infuses the material with an almost tongue-in-cheek writing quality that keeps the material from ever becoming even remotely heavy.

The book is essentially divided into different categories of criminal behavior - from old school pirates to bootleggers to cold-blooded killers to gamblers, bootleggers, and fraudsters and more.

As is always true of these kinds of books, some tales are more enchanting than others. Additionally, there are times when Owen seems to be stretching the material for the sake of space rather than having an actual story to tell. However, Owen seems genuinely engaged by these stories and that keeps us, the readers, also engaged.

"Lawbreaking Ladies" does have an awful lot of writer's personality within its pages. This isn't simply a presentation of the black-and-white facts. There's no question that Owen inserts her own editorialized comments, observations, and flippant remarks throughout the book. At times, this is entertaining. Other times, you can't help but wish maybe she'd chill just a bit and let the story stand on its own.

If you're looking for hardcore tales, "Lawbreaking Ladies" isn't likely to keep you pleased. Even the chapter on rather cold-hearted killers is more entertaining than enraging. While Owen clearly understands the seriousness of these stories, quite often she's selected rather admirable women to be included here whose actions may have conflicted with the laws of the times but were also quite often more than a little admirable in the realm of badass women.

Truthfully, there's not much else to be said about "Lawbreaking Ladies." You can pretty much tell from the title alone if this book is going to resonate with you. If you're intrigued, Owen for the most part won't let you down. If you're instantly dismissive, then it's probably not for you and Owen doesn't really do anything unique enough with the material to change your mind.

If 1/2 stars were available, "Lawbreaking Ladies" would likely exist in the 3.5 realm for me. Alas, 1/2 stars are not available and I can't help but believe that Owen accomplishes with "Lawbreaking Ladies" exactly what she set out to do. For that reason, I'm inclined to boost the rating a 1/2 star and settle in at a comfy, entertaining 4-star read for this light, engaging, and informative collection from Erika Owen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

"Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic" - Jen Lancaster

I started Jen Lancaster's "Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic" with great enthusiasm.

Having never before read Lancaster's books, I was instantly engaged by her transparent personality and witty, engaging humor that drew me in and made me eager to continue reading in hopes of discovering a new author and an indie title that I could recommend to others.

To be honest, in the opening pages of "United States of Anxiety" I was even thinking perhaps I'd discovered my next 5-star read after a far too lengthy period of 3 and 4-star reviews.

However, what was initially engaging and witty quickly became a tedious and laborious read splattered from beginning to end with personal anecdotes, episodic humor, and occasional oddball theories about anxiety based largely upon her own experiences and sourced with an obvious agenda intact.


Suddenly, my hoped for 5-star review was plummeting rapidly before, as the book wound down, settling in at a wobbly 3-star experience while dancing on the 2-star border thanks to book-ending essays on the Kardashians, overly lengthy observations about parenting (for which she has no actual experience), and relentless internet-bashing that makes me wonder if maybe she's experienced one too many critical comments on her social feeds.

While there are many who praise Lancaster's previous titles, based upon my experiences with "United States of Anxiety" the first impressions are settled and I wouldn't begin to approach anything else.

"United States of Anxiety" is an Amazon First Read during this month of September 2020 in advance of the title's planned October 1st publication date. I'd hoped it to be a sign that the book was being released on my birthday (Happy Birthday To Me!), but instead I'm just feeling grateful that I've managed to get this much older without getting this neurotic.

Truth be told, "Welcome to the United States of Anxiety" is not an awful book. Creatively, but loosely, based in the world of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Lancaster explores the world of contemporary American anxiety and does so largely through her own societal lens. There will be those who identify with her lens and there will be those who've followed her writing long enough that they'll find her weaving together of humor and social insight to be, well, insightful.

It's an intriguing idea to tie the current state of our emotional and psychological affairs into the current state of Maslow's Hierarchy in American society. The problem is that Lancaster gets in her own way here and what really is an intriguing idea never really gets fleshed out (maybe I should say "Fletched" out?) sufficiently enough. The real problem, I suppose, is that "United States of Anxiety" feels like a first-time author and, in fact, it's not.

While "United States of Anxiety" is a well sourced title, one can't help but get the idea that Lancaster cherry-picked her sources to fit her own pre-conceived observations much like the internet argument over politics or religion that never goes anywhere. The book's final forty pages are filled to the literary brim with Lancaster's actual sources, theoretically quite impressive, but in practice as tedious and meaningless as much of the book itself.

With more neuroses than humor, "Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic" offers more problems than solutions and never quite gels into quite the path out of the quagmire that Lancaster believes it to be.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Peaceful Heart: The Buddhist Practice of Patience" - Dzigar Kongtrul

I wrestled mightily throughout my week-long reading of Dzigar Kongtrul's "Peaceful Heart: The Buddhist Practice of Patience," one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I've had with a Buddhist writing in quite some time.I believe, perhaps, that it is Kongtrul's long history of weaving together creativity and inner awareness that fostered my deeper connection to his writings. Kongtrul has noted that creativity is the "essence of everything," yet prior works such as "Uncommon Happiness: The Path of the Compassionate Warrior" and "It's Up to You : The Practice of Self-Reflection on the Buddhist Path" reveal a teacher willing and able to explore the inner workings of himself and humanity while doing so in a way that is honest, concise, humble, and accessible.

These qualities are very much evident in "Peaceful Heart," a work to be released by Shambhala Publications in December, 2020. "Peaceful Heart" explores, as you might guess, the Buddhist practice of patience in a way that serves as a sort of introductory guide to cultivating our lives to being patient with our difficult circumstances.

You can feel Kongtrul's own patience throughout his writings. You can simply feel that he's an impactful teacher whose actions match his writings, though he allows his writings to be transparent about his own journey.

"Peaceful Heart" begins with the premise that patience, within the Buddhist tradition, is our mind's ability to work positively with anything that bothers us. The book is centered upon Kongtrul's understanding and expansion of Shantideva's methods for preventing our minds from being consumed by what bothers us. The book especially emphasizes anger, noting how anger can so easily impact our karma and learning how not to be consumed by it is an essential Buddhist practice.

"Peaceful Heart," indeed, teaches that patience is the lifeblood of a peaceful heart, a place where we can feel at home and at peace in every situation which allows us to be available to love and care for others absent of anger and other obstacles.

Kongtrul writes from a place of compassion, a deep understanding of the frailties of the spiritual journey yet also an absolute belief in our potential. He also writes from a place of discipline, a knowledge that incremental growth is still growth yet a knowledge that also challenges and seems to believe in the accountability we must hold to and for one another. "Peaceful Heart" is both accessible in its writing and uncompromising in each teaching, a rather beautiful balance that feels less softened and less Americanized than some writings I've read from Buddhist teachers whose writings, either via intentional choice or editorial choice, seemed to turn Buddhism into a mass-consumption practice rather than a spiritual discipline.

It was interesting to me just how often in "Peaceful Heart" I would find myself resisting a word or a phrase or a teaching, but then Kongtrul would follow up this particular point with an explanation or illustration and suddenly a spark would light inside and I would understand the teaching more fully.

I struggled, and in some ways am still struggling, with Kongtrul's use of the word "merit," a word he uses often to illustrate the karmic journey and how our actions can either work for us or against us in samsara. I believe, perhaps, the way the word is used reminds me of my days in fundamentalist Christianity and it feels inherently punitive. Yet, this is not how Kongtrul is teaching it. I'm still working on integrating these particular teachings through my decades of life and old, unhealthy spiritual teachings.

Yet, so many times Kongtrul would so vividly and wonderfully bring Shantideva's words and illuminations to life and would explain them in language that deeply resonated within my spirit and I've found myself already incorporating these teachings into my daily work, my own daily writings, and my supervision of other people professionally.

I reflected, for example, on my own experiences with learning to cook. This is something I've been teaching myself during this health pandemic and time of quarantine. In November 2019, I lost my left leg to illness and spent 3+ months at home. This period was followed by one week in my office before we were sent home due to the pandemic. Thus, I've spent almost one year in my home, mostly alone, and learning how to live differently as a person with a disability. I'd never taught myself to cook - I always ate outside the home, which is no longer possible to do regularly. I embraced this learning to cook as a spiritual journey that has taught me patience with myself, partly because I'm not a very good cook, but also patience with others as when I go to restaurants now I'm patient with cooks and servers and those who are on their own life journeys.

There is much to love about "Peaceful Heart: The Buddhist Practice of Patience," a book I will no doubt refer to time and again. It is also a book that makes me eager to read Kongtrul's other writings as it is clear the way he teaches is a way that connects with me personally and spiritually.

Written with much insight and compassion, "Peaceful Heart: The Buddhist Practice of Patience" is a book I'd enthusiastically recommend to those seeking to deepen their spiritual practice and to add depth and daily discipline to living a more compassionate, loving, and serving life.

Friday, September 4, 2020

"Too Many Times: How to End Gun Violence in a Divided America" - Multiple Authors

I've wrestled over the last couple of days with how to rate and review "Too Many Times: How to End Gun Violence in a Divided America," primarily because I am the choir to which the collective of educated and well-informed authors preach yet I can't help but feel like the book falls at least a little bit short of its lofty vision.

The voices represented here are familiar ones in the discussion around violence ranging from Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts to Everytown for Gun Safety's Director of Research Sarah Burd-Sharps to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's Public Policy Director Rachel Graber and quite a few others.

"Too Many Times" is a collection of writings, some historical and familiar and others lesser known and/or original. The collection is essentially divided into three particular talking points around the issue of gun violence - 1) How gun violence impacts us today, 2) How we have gotten to this juncture legally and socially, and 3) What we can do to reduce and end gun violence in America today.

For those already involved in the issues around gun violence, there's no question that the book's final talking point addressing what we can actually do is easily the most vital and informative.

The essays around gun violence's current impact are for the most part familiar ideas gathered together as a collective, while those essays essentially drawing from legal and social history are, indeed, familiar discussions that serve as critical knowledge for anyone approaching the issue of gun violence and, most especially, anyone daring to enter the heavily politicized and partisan political arena.

However, it's the third collective of essays that feels vital and fresh and inspiring. It was from this collection, speaking as someone who's been involved in issues around violence and children for 30 years, that left me better informed and significantly more inspired.

At times, however, "too many times" doesn't quite go far enough in addressing the "divided America" part of its title. My argument, essentially, would be that without addressing America's divisions any effort to end gun violence will be short-term in impact.

"Too Many Times" kicks off in riveting fashion, though. "96 Minutes," an article first run in Texas Monthly in 2006, recounts what many consider to be the first true awareness of gun violence as a growing concern with its story of Charles Whitman's mass shooting at the University of Texas-Austin in 1966. While far outshone by the recent documentary "Tower," this piece still vividly brings to life the events of that day and in many ways ties the books three main objectives together.

"I Dream About It Every Night" and "A Lynch Mob of One" are both important discussions, while Justice John Paul Stevens's dissenting opinion in the Heller case is a must read for those involved in the gun control issue even if it is also likely to be incredibly familiar to those same advocates. Stevens long cited the Heller case as one of the Supreme Court's worst decisions of his tenure.

Those who appreciated New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's response to the Christchurch mass shooting will even more appreciate her words recounted here, while a a 2020 NBC News Report on "How Police Justify Shootings" may very well help give tangible meaning to current affairs.

My personal favorite essay closes the book. Frank Serpico's "The Police Are Still Out of Control" is riveting reading and the kind of reading that will invest you in its subject matter while also having you look up that movie "Serpico" that you always intended to watch.

It's a terrific film, by the way.

I will confess that as I wound down my time with "Too Many Times" that I found myself just a wee bit disappointed as I had, perhaps, expected more in the way of fresh material rather than a collective that also included essays previously published. While they remain vital in the discussion around gun violence, as someone who has long been familiar with this issue they were familiar reading and a tad remedial.

However, as a collective of writings it is impossible to gather such respected voices as Shannon Watts, Ibram X. Kendi, Frank Serpico, John Paul Stevens, and others without being in awe of the wisdom and rather taken by their insights. For those early in the journey of exploring issues around gun violence, "Too Many Times" is a must read. For those wishing to gather multiple valuable resources as one, this also remains a vital resource. For experienced advocates and activists, this may not be the collection we always turn to but it may very well be the collection to which we point others as they become advocates and allies.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

"A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son - Michael Ian Black

If you're familiar with the work of comedian/actor/writer Michael Ian Black, "A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son" may very well come as a bit of a surprise.It shouldn't, really.

While the longtime member of the comedy group The State is well known for his dry sarcasm and irreverent wit, Black has also been known, if you're paying attention, for socially insightful commentary and his increasingly popular role as a successful author of children's books.

Still, "A Better Man" is a Michael Ian Black that for the most part we haven't seen. For the most part devoid of Black's usual sarcasm and cynical nature, "A Better Man" seems determined to break the rules, personally and professionally, that Black has long set for himself.

In case you can't quite figure it out, "A Better Man" is essentially a letter from Black written to his college-bound son Elijah, whom Black most obviously worries about and even more obviously completely adores.

"A Better Man" is, indeed, a mostly serious endeavor though there are certainly moments when Black allows his humor to shine through and lighten, in mostly all the right moments, his most serious and potentially dark thoughts. Black gives us the richness of his humanity here, simultaneously far more vulnerable than we've ever seen him yet also occasionally defensive and fearful and guarded and, well, quite aware that he's intentionally showing the world the Michael Ian Black that they've never fully seen but he's always wanted to show to his fans and, perhaps even moreso, to Elijah.

Black began his journey inward with his last effort, "You're Not Doing It Right." It's a journey that continues here and both deepens and broadens. The earliest pages of "A Better Man" are profound and deeply moving, Black reflecting on the Sandy Hook massacre that occurred only blocks from his own son's school and subsequently weaving together memoir, personal and parenting reflections, and occasional social commentary as he seemingly points his son toward a healthier masculinity and toward the lessons that he hopes his parenting has brought forth in their mutual journeys.

Black knows that he's not a perfect man. He also knows that he wasn't a perfect parent. He occasionally seems to serve up a literary wince, reflecting upon those times when he's allowed his own past traumas and life baggage to get in the way of his being the father he wanted to be. It's not so much an end result that Black shares here as it is his hopes and fears, failures and belief in something other than himself that he doesn't quite call God but acknowledges has helped to illuminate his path.

Black explores the complicated relationship he had with his own father, a man who passed away traumatically at the age of 39 leaving unanswered questions and unresolved issues. "A Better Man," which feels essentially like a call to himself and a calling up of Elijah, immerses itself in light melancholy as Black writes to his son about everything from violence to sexuality to relationships to gender roles and, without question, most of all love.

Simply love.

Black explores toxic masculinity, but "A Better Man" is most certainly not about toxic masculinity. It is, instead, about reclaiming masculinity as something worth celebrating because it loves and protects and guards and is tender and is most certainly non-violent. The social commentary is undeniable here, though for the most part "A Better Man" stays fairly light within the political realm. Black most certainly discusses gun violence and those who work in the area of sexual violence will rejoice at the simple, straightforward way that Black instructs his son to always except "no" for an answer even if it's at the last minute and even if it's right in the middle.

Black makes sure his son understands that the same standard should always work both ways. It's a beautiful lesson, a desperately needed lesson, in a book that is filled with simple, straightforward yet deeply meaningful lessons from father to son as the son prepares to leave home and begin their tiptoe into adulthood.

There are moments, rather brief ones, when "A Better Man" flounders a bit as Black infuses his material with facts and resources that feel more like essays and less like a personal letter. However, these moments are truly relatively brief and also give Black's teachings a layer of substance and depth.

The truth is that "A Better Man" begins and ends sublimely. In between those literary bookends, "A Better Man" is filled with the heartfelt insights and vulnerable imperfections of a comedian and actor and writer doesn't so much want his son to "man up" as he wants his son to be "a better man."

An ideal book for those on the parenting journey and for longtime Michael Ian Black fans, "A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son" may be parenting advice but it's also stellar life advice as Black teaches us that there's a better way for boys and men to live and that better way is love and compassion.

Friday, August 21, 2020

"After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity" - David P. Gushee


I'm embarrassed to admit that David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor Christian Ethics at Mercer University and the current president of the American Academy of Religion, wasn't on my radar despite what I would like to consider to be a rather pronounced effort to recognize and become familiar with contemporary Christianity's more progressive voices.However, I saw Gushee's name cross my Twitter feed when someone talked about this book, "After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity," and after a quick browsing of its subject matter decided to check out the book for myself.

If you've followed my writing for any length of time at all, you know that I've had a rather chaotic and not particularly positive journey with the world of organized religion. From a childhood spent as a Jehovah's Witness, the first of two paths to kick me out, into John Wimber's Vineyard movement, second of two paths to kick me out, I then moved toward an extended period in a New Thought church, where I was ordained, and, with a couple diversions, a seminary journey of licensed ministry with Church of the Brethren before my current tiptoeing between the Unitarian-Universalists and the Presbyterians (USA).

It wasn't really until reading Kate Bowler's "Blessed" that I could solidly identify some of the patterns, mostly dysfunctional, that led me to repeatedly head down theological roads that I inevitably found disappointing and from which I seemed to inevitably get hurt.

"After Evangelical" does, indeed, serve up Gushee's proposal for a path to a new Christianity, a way to set aside our disillusionment with an increasingly ego-driven and decidedly non-Jesus centered evangelical path and move toward a living relationship with Christ that is intellectually consistent and morally robust.

Quite simply, "After Evangelicalism" enthusiastically proposes that it is not just possible to follow Jesus out of evangelicalism but it is necessary to do so.

Thus, how you feel about evangelicalism may very well help determine how you receive "After Evangelicalism." If you're offended by anything I've already written, then it's unlikely you'll find Gushee's proposal satisfying. After all, you'll be unlikely to believe there needs to be life after evangelicalism.

In fact, you're probably thinking evangelicalism is just fine...maybe even better than ever.

On the other hand, if you're troubled by the evangelical embrace of President Trump and if you have more than a few concerns about the evangelical rejection of climate change and the seemingly inconsistent messages about what seems to qualify as "pro-life," then "After Evangelicalism" may very well help you put words to those feelings you've been having about faith, church, your own journey, and how to make sense of it all.

Truthfully, Gushee spends very little time talking about President Trump, though it's pretty clear that, as the old saying goes, that's likely the straw that broke the camel's back. Gushee, who spent a good majority of his life in the evangelical world via his Southern Baptist tradition, began veering away from identifying as evangelical the more progressive his writings and his theological voice became including his call for full acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTQ community that pretty much rendered him an untouchable in the evangelical world.

"After Evangelicalism" is a fairly weird mishmash of a book. It's simultaneously an academic endeavor and a surprisingly casual one. In fact, in terms of style Bowler and Gushee could easily be literary cousins given their abilities to write with both remarkable intellectual depth and emotional honesty.

Gushee spends a good amount of "After Evangelicalism" exploring precisely what went wrong with U.S. white evangelicalism by exploring such relevant areas as evangelical identity, biblical interpretation, church life, sexuality, politics, and race. Gushee packs an awful lot of information into "After Evangelicalism," thus at times the collection is both more of a primer to subjects that inevitably require more depth and also a bit of an overview of Gushee's previous writings. Once he's explored these subjects, Gushee begins vividly and passionately proposing new ways of living, belonging, and believing. Each chapter ends rather nicely with a sort of summarized collection of "takeaways," offering a solid framework for the material at hand.

Many who write from a more progressive theological space tend to shy aware from more "churchy" language, but Gushee embraces it. Now attending a more progressive Baptist church along with his wife's Catholic Mass, Gushee clearly still embraces the beliefs and practices of his organized faith while also accepting that the word evangelical no longer applies and, in fact, he defines and embraces the path of a Christian humanist.

"After Evangelicalism" is not likely to be a book with which you'll always agree. Gushee's relentlessly pushing forward here and boldly embracing subjects that most churches don't even talk about let alone actually take a position on. Indeed, I didn't always find myself in agreement with Gushee - I was particularly troubled, for example, by his open embrace of LGBTQ and transgender Christians but then somehow finding space to remove polyamorists from the circle with tremendous intention. To be honest, it just felt unnecessarily mean-spirited to be so specific about it.

There were other times I found myself mumbling "Yes!" or "I don't agree," but that's really part of the joy of a book like "After Evangelicalism." It's a joy hearing and exploring new ideas and following that up with thought, prayer, research, and discussion.

Indeed, "After Evangelicalism" is a book that practically begs to be studied and discussed.

To use Gushee's own language, if there's one thing I take away from "After Evangelicalism," and it's a huge takeaway, it's this central idea of Christian humanism. Gushee explains it beautifully and it explains so much so perfectly about my own journey, beliefs, practices, and why despite multiple challenging experiences I continue to believe, explore, follow, and worship. It feels, on a certain level, like I have words to describe my faith journey.

While at times I wished "After Evangelicalism" would dig even deeper within its subjects and there were times I wished for a lengthier book that would have allowed for a more relaxed presentation, "After Evangelicalism" is undoubtedly a book I will refer to again and again and a book that has already left me in deep contemplation and feeling more peaceful than ever with my chaotic spiritual past and a present that feels like it was worth all that chaos.