The bestselling books of all time are stories

I've always been fascinating with Top 10 lists, especially when they involve books. I suppose that comes from being around books all my life: selling them, writing them and now publishing them. Just this week I ran across a Top 10 book list that made me stop and reflect on what makes a book a bestseller. Thanks to a post from Justin Taylor, I found a graphic showing the Top 10 books over the last 50 years (If you can't quite read the graph, click here for a closer look). It's a fascinating and instructive list for one very simple reason: 8 of the Top 10 books are stories.

Number one, of course, is the Bible, the greatest Story of all (and the bestselling book, not just in the last 50 years, but for all time and by a wide margin), followed by Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Da Vinci Code, The Twilight Saga, Gone With the Wind, and The Diary of Anne Frank. The only exceptions are Quotations from Chairman Mao (otherwise known as The Little Red Book), and Think and Grow Rich (one of the bestselling "self-improvement" books of all time). And if you throw out Quotations from Chairman Mao, mainly because it's probably required reading in Chairman Mao's home country, you're left with just one book in the Top 10 most popular books of the last 50 years that isn't a story.

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Hear the Voice

David Capes is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of numerous publications and is one of the top scholars and writers for The Voice, a new Bible translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word. To illustrate how The Voice transports the reader into the Bible's narrative, Dr. Capes shows how the Bible's first verse reads in this new dynamic rendering of Scripture compared to a more traditional Bible version.

Here is Genesis 1:1 in the King James Version:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

That is a brilliant, simple, accurate translation of the Hebrew.  As we thought about our intended audience, however, it dawned on us how different the word “heavens” and “earth” are for us today compared to the ancients. 

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33 Films That Take Faith Seriously

Christian moviegoers sometimes lament the dearth of good, positive, realistic portrayals of faith in film. If Christians are portrayed in film, it’s usually as right-wing zealots (Citizen Ruth), scary pentecostals (Jesus Camp), or psychotic killers (Night of the Hunter). Or faith is reduced to schmaltzy simplicity, as in most “Christian films” (Facing the Giants, The Grace Card). But many films throughout cinema history have actually provided rich, artful portraits of faith. The following is a list of 33 films that take faith seriously; films I believe every Christian should make a point to see.

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Moving Beyond "Christian Films"

The filmmakers and many of the defenders of Blue Like Jazz have gone out of their way to distance Jazz from the “Christian film” stigma. Understandably. Director Steve Taylor even stirred up what really amounts to a non-controversy by declaring that the “Christian Movie Establishment… is out to get us,” going so far as to say that Sherwood Baptist (the church behind Courageous and Fireproof) issued a “fatwa” against Blue Like Jazz. 

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Trailer - For Greater Glory

Hey friends!  Check out a new trailer for the film "For Greater Glory," to be released later this year.  In addition, here's a description of the film: 

"What price would you pay for freedom?  In the exhilarating action epic FOR GREATER GLORY, an impassioned group of men and women each make the decision to risk it all for family, faith and the very future of their country, as the film’s adventure unfolds against the long-hidden, true story of the 1920s Cristero War ­the daring people’s revolt that rocked 20th Century North America.

Academy Award® nominee Andy Garcia headlines an acclaimed cast as General Gorostieta, the retired military man who at first thinks he has nothing personal at stake as he and his wife (Golden Globe winner Eva Longoria) watch Mexico fall into a violent civil war.  Yet the man who hesitates in joining the cause will soon become the resistance’s most inspiring and self-sacrificing leader, as he begins to see the cost of religious persecution on his countrymen…and transforms a rag-tag band of rebels into a heroic force to be reckoned with.  The General faces impossible odds against a powerful and ruthless government.  Yet it is those he meets on the journey - youthful idealists, feisty renegades and, most of all, one remarkable teenager named Jose ­ who reveal to him how courage and belief are forged even when justice seems lost."


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Higher Ground Film Review

A year or two ago, I had the chance to talk with David Di Sabatino about his film “Frisbee: Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher.”  Di Sabatino is a guy who has a lot of controversy surrounding him thanks to his less than generous accounts of people like Larry Norman and Lonnie Frisbee (just check out our comments sections for a little taste of the point/counterpoints being brought up in our onterview with him and coverage of his films, like this:  Di Sabatino’s Bible stories are about leaders from the “Jesus People” movement, a counter-cultural revival wave that had a profound impact in the Southern California region. It is credited with sprouting both Calvary Chapel and The Vineyard evangelical church movements.
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Take Shelter Film Review

Schizophrenia is a frequently misunderstood mental health diagnosis.  It gets confused with Multiple Personality Disorder, where one assumes multiple identities.  But symptomatically, schizophrenia is more accurately characterized by visual and aural hallucinations, delusions, or the belief that there are people and objects in places where they actually aren’t.  “Take Shelter” is framed around this diagnosis, delivering what was one of the best films I have ever seen.  Rife with tension, brilliantly acted, and technically masterful, it deserves a place in your home theater line-up.

“Take Shelter” is a film about a family.  The Father, Curtis (Michael Shannon) and his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) live in a rural part of Ohio with their daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart).  One day, Curtis walks outside into the rain, only to notice it is a dark yellow color.  From here, Curtis begins to have visions, hear sounds of thunder, and have nightmares which leave him frightened to his core.  Some of the visions are in dreams, others are while awake, but all of them feel real to Curtis.  To make matters more scary, be seems to be alone in his experiences.
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Voyeurism and Violence: A Reflection on The Hunger Games

It’s not often that I find a film to be better than the book, but The Hunger Games is such a one.  It’s an effective and engaging film in its own right, well worth seeing - and it confronts the viewer with important issues about our complex relationship with violence, voyeurism, and entertainment.

The Hunger Games, based on the book by Suzanne Collins, is set in a dystopian future in which North America is divided into twelve Districts under the control of the Capitol. Each year, every District must send two Tributes, a randomly chosen boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight to the death in the Hunger Games as a reminder of the Capitol’s power and a warning against rebellion. The story follows a girl named Katniss, who volunteers to be one of District 12’s Tributes in place of her younger sister.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Review

On paper, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” has every ingredient to be a movie I’d love.  The screenplay comes from Simon Beaufoy, who gave us amazing collaborations with Danny Boyle in “127 Hours” and “Slumdog Millionare” (for which he won an Oscar).  It is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, a Swedish filmmaker who is very adept at filmmaking as evidenced by films like “Chocolat,” "My Life As A Dog" and “The Hoax” (which I really enjoyed).  To top it off, the film has a wonderfully quirky sensibility and stars 3 very likeable and talented actors.  Still, as much as I enjoyed many pieces of the film, it left me sour on the whole.  This is a well-crafted movie that has great satire and perfect pitch humor that unfortunately gets sabotaged with a hard to believe love story, thin concept of faith, and an extremely frustrating moral resolution.

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Ewan MacGregor, Emily Blunt, and Simon Beaufoy Talk With Us About Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty) just broke one of his personal screenwriting rules: He wrote with an actor in mind. “It’s the only time in my life I’ve actually written for somebody. I learned early on in my life if you write this for ‘Robert DeNiro,’ guess what? He’s busy and he doesn’t want to come to Yorkshire for 3 weeks on no money.” But thankfully, Kristin Scott Thomas was game. In her hilarious turn in the film “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (coming out in limited release tomorrow) she plays a hard edged British press spinster on behalf of the government who is looking for a good will story in the middle east that still involves the Brits.

The film finds her pursuing this goal when she learns of a rich Sheik who wants to hire the right people to help him transport non-native fish to the desert so he can share his passion for fly-fishing.  No bombs, no threats, just rods, nylon wire and plenty of salmon.  Aiding in the Sheik’s quest is Harriet (Emily Blunt), a personal financial consultant to the Sheik, who befriends a fisheries expert by the name of Dr. Alfred Jones (Played wonderfully by an atypically straight laced Ewan McGregor).

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