The Month in Reviews: March 2022

It’s always hard to sum up a month’s reading. One thing I noticed was that I didn’t read all new stuff–a philosophy of walking from 2014, a Ngaio Marsh from 1941, Anne Lamott from 2018, Braiding Sweetgrass was from 2013, a story about a famous mathematician who never was from 2006, a Wes Jackson essay collection from 1996, and a Thornton Wilder classic that goes back to 1924. Not everything that interests me was written in the last year or so, just the books publishers and authors want one to review. In addition to my “book of the month,” a few that stood out were Michelle Van Loon’s Translating Our Past on understanding our lives through our family histories, Rob Dixon’s Together in Ministry on how men and women may collaborate well in ministry, and Korie Little Edwards and Michelle Oyakawa’s , Smart Suits, Tattered Boots on the expressions of civil rights leadership among contemporary Black clergy. A particularly appropriate book for our times was Michael Ignatieff’s On Consolation (although I found Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything, which touches on similar themes, more helpful!).

A Philosophy of WalkingFrédéric Gros, translated by John Howe, illustrated by Clifford Harper. Brooklyn: Verso, 2014. An extended reflection on the significance of walking as part of the human condition, consisting of short chapters interspersed with accounts of walking philosophers. Review

Lead Like It Matters to God, Richard Sterns. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. In contrast to many leadership books that outline steps to success, describes what it is like to give value-shaped leadership in both for profit and non-profit settings. Review

To Build a Better WorldPhilip Zelikow and Condoleeza Rice. New York: Twelve, 2019. An account of the period from 1988-1992 and the transition of states, economic systems, and military alliances, reflecting an emerging post-cold war world. Review

The Cross-Shaped LiveJeff Kennon. Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2021. A practical exploration of what it means to be made in the image of a God who died on the cross, to have the cross shape and form the way we live. Review

Death and the Dancing Footman (Roderick Alleyn #11), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2012 (originally published in 1941). A staged house-party amid a snowstorm consisting of mutual enemies ends in a death and a suicide that Alleyn must sort out. Review

Translating Your PastMichelle Van Loon. Harrisburg: Herald Press, 2021. A guide to making sense of one’s past and how our family history, traumas in previous generations, our genetic makeup, and for many, how adoption help us understand our lives and place in the world. Review

George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles (The Ken and Jean Hansen Lectureship Series), Timothy Larsen. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. Three lectures on the works of George MacDonald with responses that focus on the miraculous in these works, particularly with regard to the incarnation, faith amid doubt, and the re-enchantment of life. Review

The Samaritan Woman’s StoryCaryn A. Reeder. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Challenges the view of the Samaritan woman as a sexual sinner, considering how this has been read in the church, and the realities of the life of women and marriage that points to a very different reading. Review

The Last ProfessionalEd Davis. Tijeras, NM: Artemesia Publishing, 2022. A young man trying to find the tramp who assaulted him as an adolescent catches a freight and meets an old hobo running from a killer and the two form a friendship around the lure of riding the freights. Review

Almost Everything: Notes on HopeAnne Lamott. New York: Riverhead, 2018. A series of “notes” or essays on hope, especially amid disturbing times. Review

Braiding SweetgrassRobin Wall Kimmerer. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2013. A collection of essays centered around the culture of sweetgrass, combining indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge. Review

Together in MinistryRob Dixon (Foreword by Ruth Haley Barton). Downers Grove: IVP Academic/Missio Alliance, 2021. A field research-based approach to mixed-gender ministry collaboration identifying ten attributes for healthy partnerships. Review

The Artist and the MathematicianAmir D. Aczel. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006. The story of the Bourbaki, named after the greatest mathematician who never existed, who led a revolution in the emergence of the “new math,” introducing a new rigor into the field. Review

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder with Foreword by Russell Banks, Afterword by Tappan Wilder. New York: Harper Perennial, 2015 (originally published in 1927). A friar witnesses the collapse of a woven rope bridge with five people falling to their deaths and tries to discern some reason why, in God’s providence, each of them died. Review

Smart Suits, Tattered BootsKorie Little Edwards and Michelle Oyakawa. New York: New York University Press, 2022. A study, using interviews of Black Ohio religious leaders and research studies of mobilization efforts to explore whether Black religious leaders are still able to mobilize civil rights efforts, and if so, how, when, and why they do. Review

On ConsolationMichael Ignatieff. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2021. On how significant figures through the ages have found comfort amid tragedy and hard times, enabling them to press on with hope and equanimity. Review

Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars KnewHans Boersma (Foreword by Scot McKnight). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. In an effort to foster understanding between the two disciplines, a theologian outlines five areas for biblical scholars to understand about theology as it bears upon the Bible. Review

Becoming Native To This PlaceWes Jackson. New York: Counterpoint Press, 1996. Six essays advocating agricultural practices that reflect close attention to the character of a particular place. Review

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Gamache #15), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2019. Gamache, Beauvoir, and Lacoste are together again, searching for a missing girl amid rising floods and a flood of social media attacks against Gamache and the art of Clara Morrow. Review

Book of the Month. Books really can change and challenge us. Caryn A. Reeder’s The Samaritan Woman’s Story did that for me. I always thought (and taught about) her as a loose woman. Reeder challenged me to find that in the text. And I discovered that I was finding it in my assumptions, leading to self-examination of why that was and did this reflect a narrative about women that comes from somewhere else than the Bible. The book changed a lot more than my view of the Samaritan woman.

Quote of the Month: It seems that everyone finally discovered Braiding Sweetgrass and the wonderful collection of reflections Robin Wall Kimmerer offers bring science and indigenous wisdom together. I was particular taken by her discussion of the Honorable Harvest and her articulation of the principles that reflect indigenous wisdom:

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
                                        --Kimmerer, p. 183.

What I’m Reading. I just finished Terence Lester’s When We Stand which talks in the most encouraging terms of the multiplication that occurs when we mobilize for some cause with others. I’ve been reading David Loyn’s The Long War, an account of the Afghanistan war, America’s longest war. I’m struck that I really didn’t pay attention, except that we were still in Afghanistan. Loyn explores the reasons, going back to the war’s earliest years why this was such a long war that ended so badly not only for us but for Afghanistan. Reformed Public Theology is a wonderful collection of articles on how Reformed theology helps the writers think through various issues of public concern. The Way of Perfection is Teresa of Avila’s counsel on prayer. William F. Cook III’s Jesus Final Week uses a “harmony of the gospels” approach to look day by day at the week between the Triumphal Entry and the Resurrection. Great reading as I approach that week in the church year. Finally Black Hands, White House is part history, part memorial, and part advocacy for a monument on the Washington Mall that recognizes the slave history that built our capitol city and much of our country. She recounts the skilled work of many enslaved Blacks by name, including the man who played the instrumental role in the Statue of Freedom’s placement atop our capitol building.

Thanks for reading along, and I hope you’ve found something of interest!

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014!

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