Book Reviews: “Embracing Obscurity” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

BOOK TITLE: Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous

Everyone wants to be noticed. To be well liked. To be famous, cool, in, and well-known, with thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook, and a booming blog to boot. We want to feel important, and with the advent of social media, we all are fighting for attention. We’re fighting for people’s praise. Social media is a way of constantly telling people that we’re here, and that we’re important.

I constantly fight the desire for more praise. I want people to like my blog, like my Facebook updates, like my sermons, like my family, like my new shoes, and on and on. That’s why I so appreciated the book Embracing Obscurity, which was written by an anonymous author. The book encourages the reader to follow the path of Jesus, who…

…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)

As I read the book, I found myself constantly challenged and convicted. Would I be okay serving the Lord for the rest of my life if not a single person noticed? Do I look for opportunities to make less of myself and more of God? Do I have an overinflated view of my importance? My pride and sinful desire for praise were repeatedly challenged by this helpful book.

I don’t know who wrote this book. That’s the whole point. But regardless of the author, I recommend it.

BOOK TITLE: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

I’m not sure how I feel about this book. In one sense, I really enjoyed it. The story follows Billy Lynn, and his fellow Bravo Company soldiers, as they are honored at the halftime show of a Dallas Cowboys game. Bravo Company performed heroically in Iraq, and as a reward for their service they go on a nationwide tour to promote the war, culminating with the Dallas Cowboys halftime show.

Ben Fountain does a fantastic job of contrasting the gritty realities of life and bloody death in Iraq, with the thin veneer of of wealth, showmanship, and shallowness in America. When you boil it down, most of the things that we Americans call important are ridiculous. When you daily walk on the edge of death, as Billy Lynn did in Iraq, your priorities change. Fountain is a good writer, and he does a great job of portraying the interactions between the hardened soldiers and the wealthy people that wine and dine them.

However, this is a book about soldiers, and the characters in the book talk like real soldiers. They regularly drop F-Bombs and crude sexual jokes. They talk like real men who don’t know the Lord. I have a friend who served in Iraq, and he talks just like the characters in the book.

I wouldn’t recommend this book, but I also wouldn’t NOT recommend it. I would rather leave it up to you to decide on this one. 

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