January was the month of longer-than-usual books. I’m still working my way to the end of The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. But I still managed to finish an assortment of books ranging from a Tolstoy classic to the first book of an Ohio sci-fi author (John Scalzi). Among the weightier books I reviewed an exploration of the relationship of God to the natural world and a thoughtful re-appraisal of the nature of power. And I reviewed a new book by young activist Ben Lowe that was followed by my first author interview with Ben. So, without further ado, here is my list for January:
1. Doing Good Without Giving Up by Ben Lowe. Lowe, a creation care activist, shares what he has learned about sustaining a life of activisim, particularly when progress is slow and opposition is real. My author interview with Ben is here.
2. Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy. What happens when you sit on a jury and the defendant is a prostitute whose life was shaped by a careless romantic dalliance resulting in a pregnancy years before. Tolstoy explores the spiritual awakening and deepening of Prince Nekhlyudov as he seeks to make restitution for his wrong.
3. American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton by Joan Barthel. Seton is the first native-born American to be canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Barthel narrates the tragedy of widowhood that led to conversion, and formation of the first community of women religious in America.
4. The God of Nature: Incarnation and Contemporary Science by Christopher C. Knight. Knight responds to the alternatives of a supernaturalist/naturalist divide by proposing an incarnational naturalism, a position akin to panentheism (all of nature in God).
5. Faith and Reason: Three Views edited by Steve Wilkins. Wilkins and three contributors explore the relationship of faith and reason under the rubrics of faith and philosophy in tension, faith seeking understanding, and the synthesis of reason and faith. Each contributor critiques the other two views yet with a spirit of grace and respect.
6. Playing God by Andy Crouch. The author re-appraises the common view that power is corrupt and corrupting. He considers God’s intention for us as image bearers to use power well to reflect being image bearers, that is “playing God.” He explores both the corrupting effects on power of sin and the redemption of power.
7. Contagious Disciple Making by David Watson and Paul Watson. The authors contend that modelling and teaching obedience to truth discovered in the scriptures and then shared with others resulting in the same obedience is critical to planting Discovery Groups and churches. A very practical book with clear descriptions of practices the authors believe are biblically rooted to build multiplying church plants.
8. Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters. This is the fifth in a series of “Vicky Bliss” mysteries involving a Nile voyage, an ingenious and huge theft of antiquities, and a hair-raising chase across Egypt.
9. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Imagine the possibility of human colonies in space defended by an army of seventy five year olds promised rejuvenated bodies. John Perry is one such enlistee and the book explores the surprises Perry will encounter beginning with his own body as well as the unknowns of the cosmos that can kill you before you even recognize the danger. Perhaps the greatest surprise is who he encounters after being rescued as the lone survivor of a military disaster.
I have described myself as a reading omnivore. This list probably gives you a taste of that, ranging from philosophy and theology, to activism, and to mystery and sci-fi thrillers. I hope there might be something here to pique your interest.
You can now find of all my “The Month in Reviews” posts by clicking on the link with this title at the top of this page, or in the “Categories” list on the left side of my home page. You will find monthly review summaries beginning with February 2014, with links to individual reviews.