Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Review: The Book of Books

I recently had the opportunity to review The Book of Books by Henri Daniel-Rops for The Catholic Company. The premise of this book is to retell the stories of the Old Testament in a way that makes it more acceptable to children and even adults. You're probably going to think I'm a bit of a dork, but the best way I can explain the way in which this story is told, is to liken it to the narration of the Princess Bride story by the grandfather in the Princess Bride movie. Simply put, the storytelling in this book just reminds me of a grandfather retelling the stories.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read (please read my comments at the end of this post to understand what wasn't enjoyable).* I felt there were a few bits and pieces where it seemed like the author was talking down to the audience, but perhaps that's because the book was written in 1955 and was directed to children. If you are like me, you may find the occasional condescending tone to be a bit off putting. Even children, the intended audience of this book, don't like being talked to in this manner. I think such instances in this book are just a by product of the era in which this author lived.

As far as the reading level is concerned, I would say this is an easy read. I would imagine that a fifth grader could easily read this book. An adult could easily devour this book in a lazy afternoon (provided there are no children vying for his/her attention every five minutes--glimpses into my life are lovely, aren't they?).

The retelling of the biblical stories is pretty good, but as with any synopsis, details are missing. Due to several literature classes in high school and college, I am very familiar with the Book of Job and I found the very broad telling of this story in the book to be lacking. You can't fully appreciate the story by reading a somewhat short synopsis of it. The Passover story was rather lacking, as well. Perhaps I'm biased because I am quite familiar with those stories, but I don't think the author did them justice. If you want the simplified version of the Old Testament stories, this book will give you just that. However, if you are looking for the rich details, then I'd suggest you tackle the bible itself.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company for more information on The Book of Books.

As a reviewer for The Catholic Company Book Reviewer Program, I was supplied with a free copy of The Book of Books for my honest review of this book.

*Great, you made it to the end of my review. I was emailing back and forth with Chris (he runs the awesome reviewer program over at The Catholic Company) and I mentioned to him that by page 11 of this book, I had already found two questionable statements by the author which struck me as incredibly close-minded. I instantly dashed to the copyright page to find out what was going on, and then I ran to my lap top and began writing a scathing review of this book based on 11 pages. I even contemplated whether or not I wanted to read the remainder of this book. The author was born in 1901 and the book was originally published in 1955 (presumably in French) and then in English in 1956. I decided that the author and his book with offensive comments were simply a product of his time and I managed to finish the book. I looked past the occasional sexist remarks towards women that I found later in the book. Let me tell you what I found was highly offensive in this book. On page 7, he made a comment about the appearance of Jews that struck me as highly stereotypical. And, now that I think of it, it's even more offensive given that it was written just years after the Holocaust. Then on page 11, our closed-minded friend (the author) makes reference to the "African Negros" and their uncivilized societies. I took several courses in Anthropology while in college and that comment truly offended me. Indigenous people are not backwards uncivilized groups. Just because they're different from us or don't wear clothes does not make them uncivilized. They are living a life that is totally untouched and uninfluenced by our society. Sure they're going to seem different and maybe even backwards when compared to our modern society, but they're not unorganized or uncivilized. The destruction of indigenous society is, I believe, the reason the lesser developed countries have all the problems they have today. It is because people like us interfered in their way of life in an attempt to pull them into modern-day life that many of those people suffer today. I could write quite a lot on this subject, but I don't feel that this review is the proper platform. Maybe someday in the future I'll blog about my feelings on this subject.


  1. so sort of like the Reader's Digest condensed version of the Old Testament; could be a good start for those that haven't read the Old Testament for them to perhaps want to then go and read the actual Bible itself for the "rest of the story"


  2. It's kind of like Cliff's notes without substance and insight. I didn't want to put this in my review, but the author (born in 1901--so I cut him some slack) made two offensive remarks within the first 11 pages that really turned me off. One was a remark about Jews and their appearance where my initial though was "stereotype much?" and then he made a comment about "African Negros" and their uncivilized societies which was really an uneducated remark about indigenous cultures (I took a few courses in Anthropology in college and the remark struck a chord with me.). I consider this author and his book a product of the time period in which he lived.


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