I count it a privilege to review so many good books. And there were a lot of them this month. I finally discovered Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and his thoughtful writing about how our food comes to our table. Breaking Ground is a stunning set of essays for anyone thinking about how we come out of the pandemic and deal with the divided state of so many of our nations. Bridget Eileen Rivera’s book, Heavy Burdens, is a must read for anyone who cares about inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church, no matter your theology. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. offers a wonderful overview in The Black Church of its history and importance in sustaining America’s Black community. I found Samantha Power’s memoir, The Education of an Idealist a riveting and inspiring account of her life so far and, in this Irish immigrant, a reminder of what immigrants have added to American life. If you are tempted to surrender hope that we can do anything meaningful about climate change, Katharine Hayhoe’s Saving Us is a breath of fresh and enlivening air. There’s so much more I can say, but much of it is in the reviews, so I’ll let you get at them!
The Doctrine of Scripture, Brad East (Foreword by Katherine Sonderegger). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2021. A concise exploration of the doctrine of scripture focusing on the church’s joyful and thankful confession, “this is the word of the Lord.” Review
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollen. New York: Penguin, 2007. An examination of the American way of eating, considering our industrial food chain and how it has affected our diet by contrast with organic and hunter-gatherer food chains. Review
Cradling Abundance, Monique Misenga Ngoie Mukuna with Elsie Tshimunyi McKee. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. An autobiography of a lay leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, describing her work with women addressing their education, helping them develop usable skills, and addressing the gender violence and health issues they face. Review
Having and Being Had, Eula Biss. New York: Riverhead Books, 2021. A collection of essays on the occasion of the author and her husband buying their first house, considering the nature of capitalism, consumption, work, and class. Review
Breaking Ground, Anne Snyder and Susannah Black. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing 2021. A collection of essays written through four seasons beginning in the summer of 2020 on what it might take to restore common ground for the common good in a society deeply divided by the pandemic, race, economic, and political divisions. Review
Faithful Antiracism, Christina Barland Edmondson and Chad Brennan, foreword by Korie Little Edwards and Michael O. Emerson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. Drawing upon the Race, Religion, and Justice Project, offers biblical and practical recommendations to engage racism personally and with one’s faith community. Review
Welcome, Holy Spirit, Gordon T. Smith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Beginning with the metaphors for the Holy Spirit, articulates a theology of the Holy Spirit that spans theological traditions and invites readers to be receptive to a deeper experience of the Spirit’s work. Review
Heavy Burdens: Seven Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church, Bridget Eileen Rivera. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2021. Rather than an argument about what the Bible says about LGBTQ persons, a discussion of the ways LGBTQ Christians, regardless of their beliefs, have suffered under heavy, and the author would argue, needless burdens. Review
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. New York: Broadway Press, 2012. A virtual world quest created as the last act of a gaming programmer in which a real prize of $240 billion is at stake pits Wade Watts and a rag tag group of “gunters” against a ruthless corporation. Review
A Grave Mistake (Roderick Alleyn #30), Ngaio Marsh. New York, Felony & Mayhem Press, 2016 (originally published in 1978). A wealthy widow in a small English village dies of an apparent suicide at an exclusive spa, but clues point to murder with a circle of suspects with motives. Review
The Manifold Beauty of Genesis One, Gregg Davidson & Kenneth J. Turner. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2021. A layered approach to the meaning of Genesis 1, focusing on what this reveals about God and God’s intentions for the flourishing of his creation and the human beings created in God’s image. Review
The Black Church, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Press, 2021. A companion to the PBS series on the Black church, surveying the history of the Black church in America focusing on why the church has been central to the life of the Black community. Review
American Diplomacy, Expanded Edition, George Kennan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. (Link is to in-print 60th anniversary edition, 2012). A compilation of Kennan’s six Charles R. Walgreen lectures, two articles on US-Soviet relations originally from Foreign Affairs, and two Grinnell lectures. Review
The Journey Toward Wholeness, Suzanne Stabile. Downers Grove: IVP/Formatio, 2021. Draws on the wisdom of the Enneagram to help focus on our responses to stress, both as they reflect our dominant and repressed centers of intelligence intelligence. Review
Piercing Leviathan (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Eric Ortlund. Downers Grove and London: IVP Academic and Apollos, 2021. (Link for UK publisher). A study of the book of Job that focuses on the second of the Lord’s speeches to Job, focused on describing Behemoth and Leviathan. Review
The Education of an Idealist, Samantha Power. New York: Dey Street Books, 2021. A memoir on immigrant-American, war correspondent, human rights activist, and diplomat Samantha Power. Review
Centering Prayer, Brian D. Russell. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. An introduction to the practice of centering prayer with practical helps and theological basis, by a practitioner who found the practice transformative. Review
Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Gamache #14), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2018. Gamache, Myrna, and Benedict, a young building maintenance worker who hopes to be a builder are named as liquidators of the estate of a cleaning woman while Amelia Choquet, caught with drugs, is expelled from the Academy to the streets as a powerful and lethal drug is about to hit. Review
Saving Us, Katharine Hayhoe. New York: Atria/One Signal Publishers, 2021. A discussion of both the urgent challenge of climate change, and the difference we can make in both action and conversations. Review
Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew, Scot McKnight, Foreword Hans Boersma. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. In an effort to foster understanding between the two disciplines, a biblical scholar outlines five areas for theologians to understand about biblical studies. Review
Best Book of the Month: I loved Brad East’s The Doctrine of Scripture. Reading his theology reminded me why I love the Bible, what we mean when we speak of it as “the word of the Lord” in our worship. He speaks of scripture’s source, nature, attributes, ends, interpretation, and authority. I wrote, “This was not a book of same old, same old verities but a thoughtful framing of the doctrine of scripture that avoids the de-supernaturalizing tendencies of modern scholarship and the extremes of bibliolatry while at the same time upholding the wondrous reality of hearing the Word of the Lord together as the people of God.”
Best Quote of the Month: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., I thought, summed up well the meaning of the Black Church in this statement:
“It’s that cultural space in which we can bathe freely in the comfort of our cultural heritage, and where everyone knows their part, and where everyone can judge everyone else’s performance of their part, often out loud with amens, with laughter, with clapping, or with silence. It’s the space that we created to find rest in the gathering storm. It’s the place where we made a way out of no way. It’s the place to which, after a long and wearisome journey, we can return and find rest before we cross the river. It’s the place we call, simply, the Black Church” (p. 219).
What I’m Reading: I’m ready to review Frédéric Gros’ A Philosophy of Walking, a series of reflection on this basic human activity that includes profiles of a number of walking philosophers! I’ve been delighting in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass and am persuaded that our Native Peoples have more than a few things to teach us about tending the garden and how we may both give to and receive from the other creatures of the earth. To Build a Better World, by Condoleeza Rice and Philip D. Zelikow, looks back to 1989-1990 and the seeming end of Communism and the new order that emerged. I’m curious if it will explain the origins of our current disorders. Lead Like it Matters to God is written by the head of World Vision, the largest Christian aid agency, and explores value driven leadership. I just began reading Jeff Kennon’s The Cross-Shaped Life, one of my Lent books. Drawing on Michael Gorman, he argues for and outlines what a cruciform life looks like, one shaped by Jesus and what he has done. Finally, I’m just starting out another Ngaio Marsh book, Death and the Dancing Footman. Love the title, hope the book is as good! And I hope you find some good books to read in March, whether from this list or not. I’d love to hear about them!
The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014!