The fifteen books I reviewed this month are not easy to sum up.
- Four of the titles are on contemporary issues of race, immigration, and sexual assault and consent education on campus.
- There is some classic fiction by Upton Sinclair and Chaim Potok.
- I’ve included three devotional works including a wonderful collection of Oscar Romero’s sermons and diary entries, and a new Advent book by Russ Ramsey and a collection on the wisdom of Haddon Robinson, an instructor for many preachers.
- There is some good biblical scholarship on the Psalms, the Exodus theme in scripture, and on the Apocrypha.
- Finally, I read some good nature and science writing extending from our own backyards, to the future of humanity, all the way to the multiverse!
As always what appears below is publication information with a link to the publisher’s website, a summary, and a link to my full review
The Lord is Good: Seeking the God of the Psalter (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture), Christopher R. J. Holmes. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. Explores what we mean when we say God is good, contending that God is essentially good, that this is why the Psalms focus so much on the goodness of God, and how Thomas Aquinas may prove quite helpful in our reading of Psalms and understanding of God. (Review)
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018. Explains white fragility, its sources, expressions, the challenge it poses to conversations about race, and a different way to engage. (Review)
Serving God in a Migrant Crisis, Patrick Johnstone with Dean Merrill (foreword by Stephen Bauman). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. Concisely sets forth the scope of our present-day global refugee crisis, how as Christians we might think about all this, and several levels of action steps we may take. (Review)
A Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard, John Hanson Mitchell. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 2014. An exploration, season by season of the animals, plants, insects, bird, amphibians and reptiles, and weather conditions we might encounter in our own back yard, even as city dwellers. (Review)
A Mentor’s Wisdom: Lessons I Learned From Haddon Robinson, R. Larry Moyer. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2018. Forty-five sayings of Haddon Robinson with reflections by one of the men he mentored. (Review)
Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance, Second Edition, David A. deSilva (Foreword by James H. Charlesworth). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018. An introduction to the books of the Apocrypha, covering matters of content, authorship, date, setting, textual transmission, and theological themes and influence in both second temple and post-second temple Judaism and early Christianity. (Review)
The Future of Humanity, Michio Kaku. New York: Doubleday, 2018. An exploration of the possibility and necessity of humanity becoming a multi-planetary species, and the revolutions of technology necessary to realize that future (Review)
World’s End (Lanny Budd #1), Upton Sinclair. New York: Open Road Media, 2016 (originally published 1940). First in a series of eleven novels, introducing the character of Lanny Budd, a precocious youth on the eve of World War 1, his German and English friends and their respective fates during the war while Lanny divides his time between his glamorous mother and artist step-father on the Riviera, and in New England with his father’s Puritan munitions-making family, ending up as a secretary to a geographer at the Paris Peace Conference. (Review)
The Advent of the Lamb of God (Retelling the Story Series), Russ Ramsey. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. A retelling of the story of the coming of Jesus, who would be God’s ultimate lamb, tracing from the Fall through Israel’s history to Christ’s advent, God’s relentless yet loving pursuit of his people. (Review)
Echoes of Exodus, Bryan D. Estelle. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. Traces the exodus motif from creation, through the paradigmatic event, to its later usage, culminating in the pilgrimage of the church as the people of God and the realization of the exodus promises in the new Jerusalem. (Review)
Consent on Campus: A Manifesto, Donna Freitas. New York: Oxford University Press, (forthcoming, August 1) 2018. An argument that current approaches to consent education as an approach to combating sexual assault on campus are inadequate both in the time devoted to deal with the complexities of sexuality, and the absence of campus leadership, faculty, presidents, and other university leaders, from the discussions. (Review)
The Gift of Asher Lev, Chaim Potok. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990. Asher Lev, exiled from a Brooklyn Hasidic community over a scandalous artwork portraying crucifixion, returns after twenty years with his family for the funeral of his uncle, only to find that he is being called upon to make a far greater sacrifice than the pain of exile. (Review)
The Scandal of Redemption, Oscar Romero (edited by Carolyn Kurtz, Foreword by Michael Lapsley). Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2018. Diary entries and radio broadcast homilies by the martyred Archbishop of El Salvador, capturing both the injustices that moved him and the gospel message of hope he proclaimed to the oppressed people that eventuated in his death. (Review)
Faith Across the Multiverse: Parables from Modern Science, Andy Walsh. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2018. Explores how science, particularly math, physics, biology, and computer science, might illuminate one’s understanding of the Bible and the God of the Bible. (Review)
The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism, Howard Bryant. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018. An account of black athletes in professional sports, from the path-breakers whose very presence was political, to the athletes of the ’70’s onward whose success tempted them to just play the game, to the recent clash of patriotism and protest that has led to a new generation of athlete-activists. (Review)
Best Book of the Month: I’m going to give the nod to Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It Is So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. DiAngelo is a white woman who coined the term “white fragility.” I hope a number of my white friends read this book, which helped me understand some of the ways as a white man, I contribute to breakdowns in conversation about race. The temptation with such a book is to say, “but what about…?” which illustrates the problem. She describes how vital it is to get to a place where we can say, “How where, and when you give me feedback is irrelevant–it is the feedback I want and need. Understanding that it is hard to give, I will take it any way I can get it. From my position of social, cultural, and institutional white power and privilege, I am perfectly safe and I can handle it. If I cannot handle it, it’s on me to build my racial stamina.” Her book helped me want to get there.
Best Quote(s) of the Month: Oscar Romero’s sermons were full of statements that caught my attention. Here were a few:
For Christ does not suffer for his own faults; Christ made himself responsible for the sins of all of us. If you want to measure the gravity of your sins, simply look at Christ crucified…
Conversion means asking at every moment: what does God want of my life? If God wants the opposite of what I might fancy, then doing what God wants is conversion, and following my own desire is perversion.
By his resurrection Christ offers all the liberators of the earth this challenge: ‘You will not free people! The only liberation that endures is that which breaks the chains on the human heart, the chains of sin and selfishness.’
The Church is not on earth to gain privileges, to seek support in power and wealth, or to ingratiate herself with the mighty of the world.
Current reads: I just finished Alan Sillitoe’s short story collection, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. This collection has far more to do with loneliness than running. I’m enjoying a pithy book called Kingdom Collaborators on leadership by veteran leader, Reggie McNeal. Contemporary Art and the Church explores what a conversation between the two might look like and how this may benefit both artists and the church. Tigerland by Wil Haygood is an account of the championship sports teams of the 1968 East High School Tigers of Columbus, Ohio, my home town. This was a segregated, black high school at the time when both Columbus and the nation were torn apart by issues of race. Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World is fantasy in the vein of The Lord of the Rings, the first of fourteen in his “Wheel of Time” series. I’ve just begun it, inspired by the Great American Reads list of 100 books on which it is listed. We’ll see if it hold a candle to Tolkien. It does have hand drawn maps!
So, that’s what I’m reading. So what is the best book you’ve read this summer?