The Month in Reviews: June 2021

I began the month with the notorious RBG and ended with poetry from the island of Iona. In addition to Ginsburg, I read biographies of Siggy Wilzig (read the review for Unstoppable to find out who that is) and Henrietta Mears, who influenced many of the major figures of early evangelicalism, as well as Simeon Booker’s memoir of covering the civil right era for Jet. Wendell Berry’s The Hidden Wound is classic Berry from 1968 which I followed with a contemporary work on mixed ethnic identity. I’m up to book eight in the Inspector Gamache series. For once the murder is not in Three Pines, but a remote monastery. Other fiction included a collection of short stories by Ursula Le Guin and a strange post apocalyptic book involving battles between people able to ride clouds and build thunderheads. The most theological of the books were ones on election, ethics, and preaching Jeremiah with practical theology on what we can do when it is “not our turn,” the practice of tentmaking and on ministry to the disabled. Rounding out this months list was an Erik Larsen non-fiction thriller.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader GinsburgIrin Cardmon & Shana Knizhnik. New York: Dey Street Books, 2015. A profile of the Supreme Court Justice, centered around her dissenting opinions read from the bench but also tracing her career, her marriage, work out routines and more, liberally illustrated with photos and images. Review

UnstoppableJoshua M. Greene. San Rafael, CA: Insight Editions, 2021. The biography of Siggi Wilzig, an Auschwitz Holocaust survivor who arrived in the U.S. with $240 and built a fortune in both the oil and banking industries while speaking out against the Holocaust. Review

Mother of Modern Evangelicalism: The Life and Legacy of Henrietta MearsArlin C. Migliazzo, Foreword by Kristen Kobes Du Mez. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. The first comprehensive biography on Henrietta Mears that focuses on her early life, her Christian Education ministry at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, and her national impact on a nascent evangelical network of leaders, on Christian publishing and retreat ministry. Review

The Hidden WoundWendell Berry. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2010 (Original edition 1968, with Afterword 1988). An extended essay on racism in America, our collective attempts to conceal this wound upon American life, and its connections to our deformed ideas of work. Review

Mixed BlessingChandra Crane, Foreward by Jemar Tisby. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. The author describes her own challenges and blessings of being a person of mixed ethnic and cultural identity, and how the Christian can affirm and include the growing number of mixed identity persons. Review

God Has ChosenMark R. Lindsay. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. A survey of the development of the doctrine of election throughout Christian history, including discussions of human freedom, those who are not of the elect, and the status of Israel as chosen. Review

The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #8), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2013. While solving a case involving the murder of a prior in a remote monastery, Gamache must confront his arch-nemesis Chief Superintendent Sylvain Françoeur. Review

It’s Not Your TurnHeather Thompson Day. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. When everyone seems to be moving ahead while we are standing still, chosen for jobs while we are runners up, the question is how we should live while we wait our turn. Review

Shocking the ConscienceSimeon Booker with Carol McCabe Booker. Jackson, MI: University Press of Mississippi, 2013. A memoir of Simeon Booker’s career as a reporter, much of it during the height of the Civil Rights movement from the murder of Emmett Till to the busing battles of the 1970’s and beyond. Review

Working Abroad with PurposeGlenn D. Deckert, Foreword by James Lundgren. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2019. A concise handbook on the practice of tentmaking, explaining the concept, offering practical tips on a number of aspects of working abroad, and recounting the author’s personal experiences. Review

Orsinian TalesUrsula K. Le Guin. New York: Library of America, 2016 (originally published in 1976). A collection of eleven short stories set in the fictional eastern European country of Orsinia taking place between 1150 and 1965. Review

Talking About EthicsMichael S. Jones, Mark J. Farnham, and David L. Saxon. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academics, 2021. An approach, which after a chapter of laying out different ethical approaches, applies these through fictional conversations between three students, friends, and classmates discussing various contemporary ethical issues. Review

ThunderstruckErik Larsen. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006. The intersection of the lives of Guglielmo Marconi and Hawley Harvey Crippen occurs on a trans-Atlantic voyage with a Scotland Yard detective in pursuit. Review

Preaching JeremiahWalter Brueggeman. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2020. Bruggeman takes the framework of Jeremiah as a model for preaching, both in its structure of introduction, ending(s), and body, in its bringing a message of beyond, that both confronts the denial of God, and the grounds for hope that outlasts despair. Review

Disability and the ChurchLamar Hardwick, foreword by Bill Gaventa. Downers Grove: IVP Praxis, 2021. An eloquent and theologically grounded plea affirming the value of persons with disabilities and the steps churches can take to welcome and fully include them. Review

Balcony of FogRick Shapero. Half Moon Bay, CA: TooFar Media, 2020. In a post-nuclear world, a laborer and a fugitive from a vengeful lover inhabiting a thunderhead meet up, transform to cloud-beings and eventually engage in a climactic battle. Review

Iona: New and Selected PoetryKenneth Steven. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. Summary: A collection of poems connected to the island of Iona, the spiritual home of the author. Review

Best Book of the Month. Mother of Modern Evangelicalism is an exceptionally well-researched account of Henrietta Mears, a Christian education director in a Hollywood church that influenced a number of film stars as well as early leading lights in evangelicalism. She formed a publishing house, Gospel Light, to publish high quality, biblical-based materials for all ages. The biography stands out from earlier ones in tracing her early life in Minnesota and training as an educator. She did all this as a single woman at a time when cultural and theological strictures would discourage the leadership she exercised and a fascinating aspect of this biography is how she worked around these strictures while never openly challenging them.

Quote of the Month: Wendell Berry makes an admission many find challenging to accept even in the America of 2021. He wrote this in 1968:

“If white people have suffered less obviously from racism than black people, they have nevertheless suffered greatly; the cost has been greater perhaps than we can yet know. If the white man has inflicted the wound of racism upon black men, the cost has been that he would receive the mirror image of the wound into himself. As the master, or as a member of the dominant race, he has felt little compulsion to acknowledge it or speak of it; the more painful it has grown the more deeply he has hidden it within himself. But the wound is there, and it is a profound disorder, as great a damage in his mind as it is in his society.

This wound is in me….I want to know, as fully and exactly as I can, what the wound is and how much I am suffering from it….

It leads me to ask how “fully and exactly” do I want to comprehend this wound?

What I’m Reading. I’ve just finished Imago, the final book in Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy. I found myself wondering why she did not carry the series on further. I also have awaiting review The Problem of the Old Testament, an exploration of how Christians ought read the Old Testament including the issues of continuity and discontinuity, how we read prophecy “fulfilled” in the New Testament and how we think of Israel and the church. I just began Who Created Christianity a festschrift for David Wenham with contributions from N.T. Wright, Stanley Porter, Alister McGrath, Michael Bird, Craig Blomberg, and Greg Beale among others. Victor Davis Hanson’s A War Like No Other is his account of the Peloponnesian War. I’m in the middle of another Ngaio Marsh, Final Curtain, featuring both Roderick Alleyn and his wife, an artist. An Impossible Marriage is the story of a “mixed orientation” marriage and how the seemingly impossible has been possible for them. Finally, 40 Patchtown is a novel by Damian Dressick, a first time author, of an Appalachian mining town and the challenges of standing up to big coal in the early twentieth century.

Hope you are able to find a cool place, a cool drink and a good books to read during the lazy, hazy days of summer!

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