Sunday, February 28, 2010

God and Guinness: a Book and Beer Review

I love God, and although it is very much a lesser and less frequently indulged love, I also love Guinness.  I also have a small personal connection with some of the ancestors of the Arthur Guinness who founded the Guinness brewery and dynasty(s).  So the title of this book was too hard to refuse.  It is well written, light and fast paced, an easy read with lots of fascinating facts and takes the reader from the beggining of the brewery in the 18th century up to the modern day.  As a bonus there is a brilliant introductory chapter that introduces the history of beer and civilisation and of beer and Christianity.   So far so good, 4/5 stars.

I did dislike a few things though.  The book is a little uneven as Stephen Mansfield slips from historian to motivational speaker to preacher, this is OK but in a couple of places he quotes historians without even mentioning their names, i don't expect footnotes, and there is an adequate sources section in the appendix.  more annoying than this is that Mansfield manages to mention 3 times in the book that he has also written a book about the faith of Barak Obama, but that doesn't mean that he likes Barak Obama, in fact he is at pains to tell us he is a CONSERVATIVE christian.  Frankly, I am reading the book to find out about Guinness not about him.  If people are judging him like that, he shouldn't give them the dignity of a response, especially not in an unrelated book. Why waste my time?  His "conservative" idea of truth also spoils the historical narrative a couple of times.  For example he fails, as a good historian should not, to point out that while an evangelical member of the Guinness family may have thought that Darwin was an "infidel" who profaned Christ and attacked the authority of the Bible, that is not a very fair assement of Darwin himself.  You may think that was an ommission but on the next page he describes Darwin's theories as "pseudoscience."  I mean, I accept that he may not be a payed up evolutionist, he may even be a dyed in the wool creationist, but to say one of the most influential scientists ever, was only doing "psuedoscience" beggars belief.  Mansfield also ends the book with a highly irritating and trite 5 things to learn from the story of Guinness like some half rate preacher who has to list at the end of the sermon all the things he hoped you'd picked up on the way.

So read and enjoy, but as you chew the meat you might have to spit out the bones.  Thankfully, Guinness stout is made to a much more exacting standard! And now i'm feeling thirsty! :-)

[With thanks to booksneesze.com's book review blogger program!]

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