Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: Surprised By Joy

In addition to reviewing Surprised By Joy, I wish to take a moment to review Google Books and their e-readers.

Google Books

I have been reading via ebooks since the first Kindle DX was released. Amazon has a fine system set up, and I like that I can buy a book and read it on my Kindle, my phone or my computer. I actually take advantage of this feature quite often. Google released their own ebook store not too long ago, so I've been looking for a good reason to use it. Surprised By Joy was the first ebook that Google sold that Amazon did not, so I read the book on my Android phone and through Google's web reader.

There is not much I can recommend; it is simply a terrible system. The ebook store sells copies of the scans Google has made as part of their effort to organize the information in the world's books. They sell ebooks of their scanned books where they've acquired the license. So instead of marked-up text (which is what Amazon and B&N sell when you purchase an ebook), you are buying an image. This gives you far less flexibility (e.g. in the ability to easily resize), and the quality is often lacking, and important features like a robust Table of Contents are corrupt. Google has a feature that allows you to read the book in flowing text, but their translation is awful. Commas are often periods and periods are often missing. "I" and "1" are interchangeable and many words are just plain wrong (for instance, on page 234 of Surprised By Joy, the word "direction" was translated as the non-word "dkection"). There are no easy ways to indicate problems, not that I ought to be helping Google polish their work after paying good money for a book.

Finally, Google's reader removes practically all of the advantages of electronic reading. It is not possible to highlight or bookmark. No notes can be saved in the text. I would rather find the physical book before paying for another book from Google. This surprises me because Google does so many things well, but not ebooks.

Surprised By Joy

This book surprised me in a pleasant way. I was expecting an autobiography. It was, but it was only biographical as it pertained to C.S. Lewis' conversion. So in reality, it's a book-length testimony. I am thankful for that, however, and my respect for a respectable man has increased tremendously after reading about the means of grace in this man's life.

This book can be good for practically anyone. It glorifies God and will give strength to a believer. It may point an unbeliever in the right philosophical or logical direction toward Christianity. No doubt many critics of Christianity are somewhere on the spectrum Lewis passed through (from the Absolute to "Spirit" and from "Spirit" to "God"). It will humble all as the reader understands how ignorant of literature he or she truly is.

For what the book is, I do not see any downsides, and so my only other recommendation would be to step through the few chapters on which I've written.

Chapter 1
Chapter 7
Chapter 9
Chapter 15

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