Thinking Out Loud

August 23, 2012

Austin Gutwein: Living to Give

The nature of my work permits me to be able to recommend books to parents for their middle-school and high-school kids. When this occurs, which it does regularly, I have three “go-to” authors to recommend. While a number of books are written to teens, it’s great to have authors like these where the books were written by teens for their peers:

  • Zach Hunter — He has three books with Zondervan, starting with Be The Change, and his cause his 21st century slavery. His organization is called Loose Change to Loosen Chains, which he began at age 12.
  • Alex and Brett Harris — A&B are twins and also brothers to author/pastor Joshua Harris. Their books, Do Hard Things, and its companion, Start Here inspires challenge youth to deeper commitment.
  • Austin Gutwein — His first book, Take Your Best Shot tells the story of how he turned a passion into throwing free throws into a fundraising organization, Hoops of Hope, that benefits HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa, a charity he started at age 13 based on an idea he had at age 9.

So when I had a chance to review Austin’s newest book, Live to Give, I jumped at the chance to be able to introduce people to Austin’s writing and his personal story.

But the temptation was to thnk, ‘Hey, this is a youth book, I’ll just read the first half of it and then write the review.’ However, I’ve never reviewed a book I haven’t read to cover to cover, and honestly, I really enjoyed the experience.

Live to Give is based around the story of Jesus feeding five thousand men (plus women and children) and focuses around the lunch that a young boy offered up to Jesus and his disciples that was multiplied many times over. Austin compares this to the lunch box his mom packs for him, and sees that lunch box as symbolic of the ‘gift set’ that each of us possesses. Remarkably, he gets more than a dozen chapters out of that analogy.

The writing style is very conversational. I can’t emphasize that enough. This is a book that even that “not-much-of-a-reader” in your house — which is usually a boy — can get into.

Although the book centers around the gospel narrative of the miracle Jesus performed that day, and the little boy who played a part; there are a number of other stories and related scriptures mentioned. This is a book that will raise the Biblical literacy level of that kid who hasn’t been paying attention at weekend services.

I suspect that Austin tells more of the story of Hoops of Hope in the first book, but there’s enough of it here that you don’t need to have read Take Your Best Shot to appreciate Live to Give.

This is a book that teens, parents and youth workers should be aware of.  Thomas Nelson, paperback, 197 pages. Great book. Amazing author.

A copy of  Live to Give was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin a Canadian agency that works alongside U.S. publishers like Thomas Nelson to promote key titles north of the 49th.


I wanted to step outside the review itself and add a few comments that may seem superficial, but which I feel are important. There’s a saying that you can’t tell a book by its cover, but there are three things with the back cover of Live to Give that I think need to be addressed.

  1. What on earth is Austin wearing in his publicity shot? And is that a tie he has on? Are they cool now? Please don’t tell me ties are coming back. It seemed an odd choice for the primary market they’re going after.
  2. The sticker price of $14.99.  Thomas Nelson has kept its youth fiction at $9.99 for paperbacks; I’d hate to see this price work against more people seeing the book; though I’ll grant you some prices are being set high with the full knowledge that mass merchandisers will be aggressively discounting, rendering the MSRP somewhat meaningless. Still, Pete Wilson and Max Lucado list at $15.99, $14.99  seems high for a youth market title.
  3. The use of the appellation “JUVENILE NON-FICTION” above the bar-code. I realize this is standard at Thomas Nelson; everything that’s not for adults gets this “juvenile” designation; but perhaps it is time to rethink that on teen/youth books. Heck, Austin just started at Anderson College as a poli-sci major; his peers — who would enjoy it — aren’t going to read his book when they see that category label. If that’s ‘policy,’ either change the rules or make exceptions.

To repeat, I enjoyed this book, and I intend to strongly recommend it, but I think the publisher’s choice for a back cover constitutes shooting themselves in the foot.

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June 2, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Our link list artist this week is David Hayward, better known as Naked Pastor.   He actually gave away the original water color of this  last week, so with blog giveaways like that, you might just want to become a regular reader.

Off to the links we go…

  • Rick Apperson reviews basketball fundraiser Austin Gutwein’s Take Your Best Shot, at the blog Just a Thought, while the whole genre — including some video clips of Austin — is examined at Christian Book Shop Talk.   Like Zach Hunter, Austin, pictured at right, got into the whole international relief thing at a very, very young age.  If I were still in youth ministry, I think I would build a whole evening around the videos describing what Zach and Austin are doing.
  • The whole Charismatic thing got started in the 1970s, right?   Not exactly.   If you’ve got some time to invest, Brazillian-born Leo Di Siqueira links to a lengthy article that blows apart the “cessationist” view that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit died off with the first apostles.  Writer Nigel Scotland documents examples of the “miracle” gifts occurring in the first five centures of the church.   The link is approximately a 15-page .pdf file.
  • Garrison Keillor explains the book publishing industry for all the children in the audience who are too young to remember what a book is on the pages of The New York Times.    (Here’s a related piece I wrote at my book industry blog.)
  • John Freeman at Ligoner Ministries suggests a balanced approach to dealing with the issue of homosexuality specifically and sexual sins in general; meanwhile…
  • …”When Ray Boltz and Azariah Southworth perform in concert at Covenant of the Cross in Nashville on June 17, 2010, they will kick off a national tour as well as an affirmation of their status as openly gay Christian music artists.”   Continue reading that story in Out and About a gay community blog.    But wait, there’s more…
  • …At the blog Monday Morning Insight, Todd Rhoades posts a piece about Boltz’ new album and some sample song lyrics which invite the broader Christian community to embrace greater tolerance.
  • For the time being, Raymond Hosier can wear his rosary beads to school, as reports the Washington Post.  Now the school in question faces a lawsuit.
  • Once-disgraced Colorado Pastor Ted Haggard announced today he is starting a new church and “will be happy if only a few people join.”  Read about St. James Church at NBC’s Denver affiliate.
  • They sold their house and named their RV after the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  This is actually an October, 2009 YouTube clip from Good Morning America, but someone sent it to me, and it is inspiring.
  • By their CD collection you shall know them:  Brett McCracken thinks true “hipsters” would be nostalgic for these contemporary Christian music classics.
  • Many a college or university began life with solid Christian roots which they would sooner forget in the secularized 21st Century; but sometimes, as Mark Roberts points out, the architecture of their older buildings betrays this history.  (My own alma matter, once proudly part of the now liberal United Church of Canada, is emblazoned with, “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”)
  • Trevin Wax had two great links last week:  First, when the Westboro gang decide to picket your church, if you’re in the deep south you serve them food!  Second, a link to Head Heart Hand, which suggests that bloggers are usually either Creators or Curators.
  • Relatively new blog:  Faith and the Law chronicles those times where Christians run afoul of the law in both the U.S. and around the world.
  • Our cartoon this week are from Doug Michael (upper) and Dennis Daniel (lower) at Baptist Press (we’re going to have to put these guys on the payroll…)  What’s with all the first-name last-names at BP?



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