I first heard of Amazon.com in 1997 from a library-science student I had a crush on. At the bottom of all of her emails ran an automatic signature: “AMAZON.COM: World’s Largest Bookstore.”
That was a bit of cheekiness, as Amazon was not a true “bookstore” at all. Rather—and rather revolutionarily—it was a cyber-hub from which books could be ordered anywhere and sent anywhere.
Like every book lover I know, I came for the convenience—and stayed for the prices, the customer reviews, the “So You’d Like To . . . ” guides. Amazon combined the coolness of a great bookstore with the ghost-convenience of Internet shopping. One knew, quaint fact, that they were headquartered in Seattle, but Amazon seemed the perfect emblem for an era whose buzzwords were multinational, network, and globalize. And if this new era had its dangers—maquiladoras in Juarez, plant closings in the Midwest—hadn’t it also given activists the tools to plan uprisings like the 1999 protest in—of all places—Seattle?
Time passed. Amazon moved into e-books, and things got complicated. There were whispers of monopoly, of the strong-arming of publishers. Some e-books, notably George Orwell’s, were abruptly deleted from the Kindles of people who’d paid for them. Then in January, as part of a spat over e-book pricing, Amazon stopped offering new copies of all Macmillan titles. So if you want to buy Marilynne Robinson’s next book, you might have to get it from an actual brick-and-mortar store—or you can buy a used copy, to neither publisher’s nor author’s profit, from, yes, Amazon.
In the age of globalization, nothing seems quainter than calling for a boycott. But those worries about monopoly don’t seem quaint at all now, and this customer, at least, is walking away. For good.
by Anne Ricereviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Throughout his violent childhood, Toby O’Dare dreams of becoming a priest. However, in the wake of tragedy, he rejects God and becomes an assassin. Spiritually lost, Toby prays to his guardian angel for help, and Malchiah answers. The Seraph offers Toby a chance to help Jews in 13th-century England who have been accused by Christians of ritual murders. Carried back in time, Toby becomes a priest who fights for justice on behalf of a Jewish couple, and, in doing so, seeks God once again. (Knopf)
reviewed by Lloyd Rang
You’ve got the whole world in your hand: Web 3.0 is here. That’s the buzzword experts use to describe the ability to surf any site on the Web using a cell phone or BlackBerry. You can take the power of Wikipedia, YouTube, or Facebook with you wherever you go. And, for the first time, virtually any information is available to anyone, anytime. What this means for our culture is still an open question, but to paraphrase a Web expert, “a technology doesn’t truly transform our lives until it is everywhere and invisible.”
by Ann M. Martinreviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Three lives—a stray dog named Bone, a boy named Charlie who suffers two painful losses, and Henry, a lonely boy who wants a dog more than anything else—are masterfully woven together in this juvenile novel, which movingly portrays the healing role dogs play in people’s lives. Author Ann Martin hopefully, sensitively, and age-appropriately deals with the theme of loss in its different manifestations—aging, death, separation, depression, and loneliness. (Feiwel and Friends)
by The Mountain Goatsreviewed by Elizabeth Gonzalez
The Life of the World to Come is a curious tour through singer-songwriter John Darnielle’s own troubled life as told in the context of well-loved stories. These songs don’t shy away from the moments when God is silent, as with Rachel and Jacob in “Genesis 30:3,” or when the future is uncertain, as in “Deuteronomy 2:10.” With a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible as the backbone, the Mountain Goats create a collection that, as diverse as the book it draws its titles from, depicts mercy in the midst of chaos. (4ad Records)
by Great Lake Swimmersreviewed by Ron DeBoer
The Great Lake Swimmers’ latest album is what is referred to as an “atmospheric creation.” Lost Channels continues a tradition of recording music in isolated places. The band traveled to the Thousand Islands region of Ontario and was inspired by the mystery and history of the area. Lead singer Tony Dekker’s ethereal voice is perfect for this project. The hypnotic sound of “She Comes to Me in Dreams,” “River’s Edge,” and “Still” is like nighttime waves singing hauntingly against the groaning hull of a docked ship. (Nettwerk Records)
by Ben Lowereviewed by Robert N. Hosack
Environmental evangelist and activist Ben Lowe, a 20-something recent Wheaton College grad, presents an informative and inspirational case for Christian involvement in climate change and creation care issues. Sharing real-life stories from churches, communities, and particularly Christian college campuses, along with plentiful research case studies, the author shows how we can make a big difference when we all work together. Lowe issues an impassioned call for an “incarnational earthcare.” Particularly relevant to youth groups and college students wanting to go green. (InterVarsity Press)
It’s History: Carole Boston Weatherford teams up with illustrator Tim Ladwig for a picture book called The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights. (Eerdmans)
Washed Up: The next Disney nature film hits theaters this month. Oceans is in the tradition of Earth, except it’s about—you guessed it—oceans.
Rapturous Reading: The main character in the novel Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese is a journalist jaded by “years of covering the antics of End Times cults for The Banner, a religious news magazine.” Don’t be left behind. (St. Culain Press)
Gotcha Covered: Band Angels bandages look like Band-Aids with a twist—the bandages feature cartoon angels and one of three Bible verses for your little cherub. Available at BandAngels.net.