April 2014: The Month in Reviews

Another month and another pile of books read! This past month I read of pilgrimages fictional and real, and collections of essays on the future of reading, of politics and religion in the past, and the present relevance of a martyred saint. I read books on big questions, worthy dreams and good and beautiful lives. I explored Winston Churchill’s leadership during World War 2, and a text promoting an alternative to the war around ‘origins’. In case you missed any of the reviews, here is the list with links to my review posts.

1. The Edge of the Precipice: Why Read in the Digital Age ed. Paul Socken. This collection of essays is an exploration of the future of reading and the promotion of reading of great literature by those who love to read and love great literature. It is also thoughtful about the impact of digitization on reading.

2. In Search of Deep Faith by Jim Belcher. Belcher recounts a sabbatical journey with his family through England and Europe exploring the lives, and visiting the sites where those lives were lived out, of his heroes of faith–C. S. Lewis, William Wilberforce, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer among them. His vignettes of these people and his “keeping real” the ups and downs of family life on ‘pilgrimage’ made this a great read.

3. Big Questions, Worthy Dreams by Sharon Daloz Parks. This is an oft referenced work on the spiritual longings of young adults and the role mentors may play in faith and values development.

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4. Politics and Religion in Enlightenment Europe, James E Bradley and Dale Van Kley, eds. This collection of papers chronicles the relationship between various religious reform movements and the political structures in their host countries during 18th century Europe–an interesting exploration of the almost unavoidable relationship of religion and politics in another setting.

5. The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith. This is the second volume in his Apprentice series and explores how the Sermon on the Mount represents the core of Jesus’ teaching on how one indeed can live a sustainable good life. The book includes “Soul-Training’ exercises and is useful for both individuals and group discussions.

6. The Pilgrim’s Regress by C. S. Lewis. This is Lewis’s first work following his conversion and reflects something of his own spiritual journey. As an early work,  it may not be his best but read it if you love Lewis and you are curious about “why regress?”.

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7. Mapping the Origins Debate by Gerald Rau. Rau’s purpose in this work is to delineate the six (not two!) models of origins of the cosmos and life held by different people and how each of these addresses the evidence around the origin of the cosmos, of life, of the species, and of human beings. His does not advocate for a particular view but shows how philosophical presuppositions and one’s definition of “science” shape one’s interpretation of the evidence and which of these models one is most at home with.

8. Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945 by Max Hastings. This is neither strict biography nor war history but a look at Churchill’s leadership as Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War 2. It gives a balanced treatment of Churchill’s indispensable ability to rally his people and woo American support, and the flaws in his relationships with his war commanders and his perception of Britain’s post-war future.

9. Bonhoeffer, Christ, and Culture, Keith L Johnson and Timothy Larsen, eds. This book contains the papers give at the 2012 Wheaton Theology Conference, which focused on Bonhoeffer, and sheds valuable light on his Christ and Word-centered theology, the transforming influence of the Harlem Renaissance in his life, and Bonhoeffer’s decision to participate in resistance against Hitler and how he reconciled this ethically.

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That’s the month in reviews. Look for reviews in the next month on a collection of Manhatten Project materials, faith and science in Antebellum America, a new biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe, a landmark work on genocide and American foreign policy and more! Thanks for reading!

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