Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BookTuesday: The Next Story

BookTuesday this week features a book received from Zondervan Publishers by the Internet-famous (at least in some circles) Tim Challies. It’s Challies’ book about life and faith after the digital explosion entitled The Next Story. You should know that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for the review, although I’d likely have bought it anyway.

Here’s what it looks like:

The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

I have had difficulty getting this review written for Tim Challies’ book, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. Why? Well, my Blackberry has been buzzing, I’ve got a few comment streams on blogs to keep up with, and then there’s the podcasts to listen to in the process. Plus, since I’m paying for unlimited Netflix streaming, I’ve got to have a movie going in the background.

Now, if that sounds nothing like any moment you’ve ever had, then you could probably skip this particular book for a few months. If you’re decently in control of your technology use, you can wait a little while too.

What is Challies up to with this book? Why should you read it? Is it ironic that this book is available for Kindle and other e-readers? Is it wrong that a man who became famous blogging and made his living doing web design to write about how we should view technology?

Let’s answer those questions:

1. Tim Challies is presenting recommendations of how to utilize technology without being dominated by it. The primary perspective that he holds is a Protestant/Reformed Christianity, so be prepared to see references to God, Jesus Christ as Lord, and the Bible as authority. If you hold the same beliefs, that’s not a problem, but if you don’t, you might bog down a bit. There’s still valuable information for you, but some of this just won’t make sense to you.

Challies is striking at two targets in this book. The first is the “technology is evil” target. In the early chapters of the book, he addresses what is good and useful in technology. The second is the “I want every thing beeping at all times” target. This target receives the bulk of the words here.

A large portion of the method here is to raise awareness of the issues underlying the technology we use. He is not trying to state that we ought to all use cell phones or ought to avoid them, nor even whether you should answer your phone during church. Rather, he wants the reader to ask this question: “How is carrying a cell phone at all times changing the way I think about life?” Then, address the question of when you should or should not answer the phone.

2. I’m going out on a limb and saying that you should read this book. Even if you are one of the aforementioned non-technology people, you should read this book. First of all, you cannot escape the technology. Even the Amish occasionally use the telephone: you cannot escape it. The Next Story will help you build a moral and theological grid about how to use the technology.

If you’re addicted to your iPhone, iPad, and MacBook or the various other devices, you need to read this book. It will help you think about what is happening in the world around you and the mindset within you because of these devices. You may choose to continue your prior behavior, but you will at least know what you’re getting into at that point.

3. It’s less ironic that you can read this on a Kindle than on an iPad. A Kindle’s at least a uni-tasker (as Alton Brown would describe single-use tools), so you don’t develop the mental-fragmenting from it. However, it is kind of funny to think of losing ourselves to technology and reading about it on a technological device. It supports the idea of the book: these advances are here to stay---so what are you going to do about it? Gutenberg perhaps had detractors that preferred calligraphy: but who has read a hand-copied book lately? (Ph.D. nerds excluded.)

4. If we exclude people who have used technology from writing books, we’ll never learn anything. Actually, Challies has a good blend of work in publishing, web design, ministry, and internet interaction that provides a good viewpoint to this book.

This book helps put together a viewpoint that helps us not fear the coming technology. It is also not a wide-ranging futuristic view, addressing deeply artificial intelligence or raising fears of SkyNet and Terminators, but rather a book that says: this is what is now. This is what is most likely for the next several years. Now, what are you going to do with it?

Worth the purchase.


Free book provided by Zondervan in exchange for the review.

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