This month I reviewed a dozen books (no, not a baker’s dozen–just a real dozen). My reviews included a couple books on higher education, both recommending a form of “unbundling”. There was an account of Jeff Bezos and the birth of Amazon, a couple of books exploring the paradoxical character of Christian experience, an unusual crime novel, a history of the clashes between Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall that defined the Supreme Court, a book on neuroscience, and several books exploring theological topics ranging from political witness to suffering to whether we can still believe the Bible.
What it comes down to is that I find a wide range of things interesting. Even so, I’ve also had the recent experience of refusing several people who wanted me to review their books–either because it was outside my range of expertise, or interest. I guess I still like the idea of defining what I think will be interesting to read and review! Anyway, here is the month’s tally, along with my best book and best quote of the month:
1. College Unbound by Jeffrey Selingo. The first of two books I read about the challenges confronting higher ed. Of the two, I think this gives the broadest survey of innovative approaches being taken to “unbundle” higher ed.
2. The Everything Store by Brad Stone. A fascinating chronicle of the rise of Amazon, the relentless passion of Jeff Bezos to serve the customer, and the line between genius and hubris that he walks.
3. Christian Political Witness by George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee (eds.). This is a collection of papers from the 2013 Wheaton Theology Conference exploring a variety of perspectives on Christian engagement in the political realm.
4. From London Far by Michael Innes. A rather far-fetched plot of an Oxford don and a fetching woman scholar who fall into and try to subvert a plot to steal antiquities and art from throughout Europe.
5. The Steward Leader by R. Scott Rodin. Rodin develops a model of leadership around the idea of the steward that challenges the transformational, transactional, and servant leader models.
6. The Grand Paradox by Ken Wytsma. The author explores the mysteries and apparent contradictions that come with the life of faith.
7. Can We Still Believe the Bible by Craig Blomberg. Blomberg takes on the critics and debunkers of the Bible and makes a scholarly case for the Bible’s trustworthiness.
8. Minds, Brains, Souls, and Gods by Malcolm Jeeves. A career professor of psychology explores the brave new world of neuroscience and the questions about the nature of being human and belief in God being raised by the contemporary research.
9. What Kind of Nation by James F. Simon. Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall clashed over the developing shape of American Federal government with Marshall playing a crucial role in upholding both a strong Federal government and a strong Supreme Court whose power of judicial review balances the powers of the other branches of government.
10. A Glorious Dark by A. J. Swoboda. Another book exploring the paradox of our glorious hope revealed in the tension between the darkness of Good Friday, the waiting of Saturday, and the wonder of Easter Sunday.
11. College Disrupted by Ryan Craig. Craig describes the “unbundling” of higher education in the face of cost and value pressures, particularly through the use of innovative educational technologies including “competency management platforms.”
12. Suffering and the Search for Meaning by Richard Rice. The book surveys seven ways Christians have dealt with the problem of suffering, assessing strengths, weaknesses, and how we might draw from all of these in coming up with our own ways of making sense of suffering.
Best of the Month: I would have to choose A Glorious Dark, because of the honesty and depth of the writing that explored the Triduum and the paradox of the glory of our faith revealed through the suffering of the cross.
Best quote of the Month: I liked this quote on the proper tension of engagement in the political process that Christians must seek, by former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya, David Gitari, cited in Christian Political Witness:
“Our relationship with powers that be should be like our relationship with fire. If you get too close to the fire you get burnt, and if you go too far away you will freeze. Hence stay in a strategic place so that you can be of help. You can support the authority, but when they become corrupt you can criticize fearlessly.”
In the month ahead, I will be reviewing a book on shalom in higher education, another book on paradox and faith, a new book on nonviolence by Ron Sider, some historical fiction of Edith Pargeter, and a recent history of Africa (if I get through it in April) and a collection of essays on Christology by majority world authors. Happy reading!
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