There were so many kinds of books I delight in reading in this month’s selection, and at least one wonderful find, Patricia Hanlon’s Swimming to the Top of the Tide, is right up there with the best of nature writing. I read a couple of Ngaio Marsh mysteries, always a great diversion and two literary fiction works that have been getting some attention, The Magician and Cloud Cuckoo Land. I enjoyed a marvelous little devotional on my Enneagram type as well as one designed to take one through the Psalms with writings of Christians through history. John M.G. Barclay’s Paul & The Power of Grace is a significant contribution to Pauline studies. Racism and patriarchy are two sins both in the culture and the church explored in three of this month’s books. Book Row was just fun, making me wish I could have visited this mecca for booklovers in its heyday.
The Magician, Colm Tóibín. New York: Scribner, 2021. A fictionalized biography of German writer Thomas Mann, his bourgeois beginnings, his lifelong homoeroticism, his rise as a writer, flight from Germany, ambivalence about denouncing Nazism, and alienation from his children. Review
Identity in Action, Perry L. Glanzer. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2021. Addresses the various different identities college students must negotiate and proposes a model of Christian excellence in these various identities. Review
A Man Lay Dead, (Roderick Alleyn #1), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2011 (originally published in 1934). Sir Hubert Handesley hosts one of his famous weekend parties and Nigel Bathgate, a young reporter is invited to join his cousin Charles Rankin for the weekend’s entertainment, the Murder Game, which becomes serious when Rankin turns up the corpse–for real! Review
Swimming to the Top of The Tide, Patricia Hanlon. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2021. A memoir of spending a year swimming the creeks and waters of the tidal estuary near her West Gloucester home, a portion of the Great Salt Marsh, and the critical role played in the Earth’s ecosystem by these places where land and water meet. Review
Forty Days on Being a Five, Morgan Harper Nichols (Suzanne Stabile series editor). Downers Grove: Formatio, 2021. Forty short reflections with prayers and questions for those who are Enneagram Type Fives. Review
Praying the Psalms with Augustine and Friends (Sacred Roots Spiritual Classics #1), Carmen Joy Imes. Wichita, KS: TUMI Press, 2021. A collection of readings for all the Psalms drawn from the writings of Augustine and other classic spiritual writers from Origen to Calvin. Review
Every Leaf, Line, and Letter, Edited by Timothy Larsen, Introduction by Thomas S. Kidd. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A collection of articles in honor of historian of evangelicalism, David Bebbington, exploring expressions of the “biblicism,” in Bebbington’s definition of evangelicalism, known as the “Bebbington Quadrilateral.” Review
The Coming Race Wars, William Pannell. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. A new edition of a book first released in 1993 following riots in Lost Angeles, calling the evangelical church to address the issues of racial justice in the country. The new edition shows the prescience of Pannell’s observations and the even greater urgency of coming to grips with our racial transgressions. Review
Getting to the Promised Land , Kevin W. Cosby, Foreword by Cornel West. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021. An argument for the use of the Nehemiah narratives rather than Exodus to ground the appeal by American Descendents of Slaves (ADOS) for restitution for the centuries of abuse they and their ancestors suffered. Review
Book Row, Marvin Mondlin and Roy Meador. New York: Skyhorse, 2019 (originally published in 2003). A history of Book Row, a collection of used and antiquarian bookstores along and around Fourth Avenue in New York City. Review
Paul & the Power of Grace, John M. G. Barclay. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2020. Looks at the theology of Paul through the lens of grace, an unconditioned and incongruous gift for Jew and Gentile alike, personally and socially transformative. Review
Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr. New York: Scribner, 2021. A story of five characters living in three time periods, whose lives are tied together by the story of Aethon the shepherd written by Antonius Diogenes. Review
Worshiping with the Reformers, Karin Maag. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A survey of the various worship practices of Reformed church bodies, revealing the diversity of practices and the reasons for those differences. Review
Killer Dolphin (Inspector Alleyn #24), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2015 (originally published in 1966). Through an accident, a playwright realizes his dream of a renovated Dolphin Theatre, with packed houses for one of his plays, until a murder occurs and a boy actor is badly injured in a botched theft. Review
Women Rising, Meghan Tschanz, Foreword by Carolyn Custis James. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. A global mission trip awakens the author both to the injustices women face throughout the world and the patterns of subjection she learned in childhood that held her back and which she learned to name and use her voice to speak against. Review
Best Book of the Month: I found Alice Fryling’s Aging Faithfully to be an honest, spiritually perceptive and practical book that was right on target in exploring the questions I ask as a sixty-something about what Christian faithfulness looks like in the later seasons of life.
Best Quote of the Month: I loved Swimming to the Top of the Tide by Patricia Hanlon. I wrote to introduce a quote from the book:
“The writing at times gave this reader a sense of floating along with them, carried by the tide, taking in the meeting of sea, land, and sky.
‘We were floating barely forward, watching the flecks of marsh grass and air bubbles on the water’s surface slow down and finally pause. All but the top foot or so of the marsh grass was flooded. The stillness pulsed with life sounds normally too faint to hear; the beating of birds’ wings, the drowsy hum of a jet, the slight tinnitus that has been with me as long as I can remember, a mind event that skates the edge between real and unreal‘ (p. 43).”
What I’m reading. Waiting for review: Andrew Bacevich’s After the Apocalypse, arguing for an end to American exceptionalism, and Good Works, a narrative about a hospitality ministry in nearby Athens, Ohio that I’ve admired for many years. Beth Allison Barr’s The Making of Biblical Womanhood looks at the history of women in the church and the cultural forces that have shaped conservative complementarianism in the last century. The End of College explores the rise of Religious Studies programs in the transitional period from church-related colleges to large secular universities. I’m re-reading Louise Penny’s The Nature of the Beast, number eleven in the series, that I had read out of order. It’s much richer knowing the backstory. In the Shadow of King Saul is an essay collection by the writer of a book on J.D. Salinger earlier this year, Jerome Charyn. T.F. Torrance as a Missional Theologian is a deep dive into Torrance’s theology, influenced by his mentor, Karl Barth, and its contribution to thinking about the mission of God and the church. And if you’ve read my book previews of recent weeks, you can see there are lots more to keep me engaged on the cold winter nights ahead. Happy reading, friends!