At the begining of August Michael Hyatt, the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, announced on his Twitter feed that in conjunction with their publicataion of the book The Faith of Barack Obama, Thomas Nelson would send the first 200 bloggers a copy of the book as long as they agreed to post a 200 word review of the book. In the letter accompanying the book, the company stated “Remember we don’t care if your review is positive, negative, or somewhere in between, as long as you finish the book and write a 200-word review.”
I have enjoyed following Hyatt’s blog for more than a year. He appears to be quite forward thinking and what he does. Plus, his blog provides a nice behind-the-scenes look at the job of a President/CEO. If you are interested in other reviews, Hyatt has started collecting them on his blog.
In terms of my review of the book, the first thing that struck me was that it was short. The entire text is 144 pages. Maybe I am just used to reading longer texts, but this seemed short to me. On the other hand, it reads very easily. The book is a fast read and is easily accessible. This is likely important in that, because Obama is running for President, there may be people picking this book up to read it that would not normally read books such as this.
In fact, this book reads like a series of magazine features. I think the book could easily be divided by chapter into a series of magazine articles.
With respect to the substance of the book, I think it does a good job of conveying two important points. The first is that dispelling the ridiculous notion that Obama is Muslim. The author addresses this issue directly and soundly rejects the idea.
The second point that the book conveys is that Obama’s faith is different from that of his controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright. The author goes to great lengths to explain how Obama came to his faith and how similar it is to many others of his generation.
Much of the book appears to be drawn from Obama’s books, prior articles, and interviews with people other than Obama. Noticeably absent from the book is information from an interview between the author and Obama. This is something that I would like to have seen. On the other hand, however, given the amount of coverage that Obama has seen over the years, it makes sense that this book could be written without that interview.
My favorite part of the book was the background portion that dealt with Obama’s childhood. Strangely enough, this was the portion of the book that had the least to do with Obama’s faith, the purported subject of the book.
On the whole, the book was a nice easy read. On the whole, however, I felt like the book could have been more; that it could have had a little more meat. In particular, I would like to have seen more examination of his college years and his time spent in community work before he attended law school. The book deals with this period of time with just a few sentences. I think that this time period would be significant in his spiritual development. Thus, I found the failure to address this time period in more depth quite strange.
If you are looking for a quick read that gives a nice overview of Obama’s faith, this book will meet your needs. Don’t expect it to deliver more than that, however.